I’ve already got a second question for you, and this is only the opening line of the blog today; did you immediately start reading or did you stop and answer the question in the title of the blog itself? So what is the most important thing in YOUR life? Right here, right now.
You’ll note I hope that I asked about a thing, not a person. So if you answered, “My kids”, “My spouse” etc. give it another moments thought. While people are very important, put them aside for the purpose of this exercise. And here’s why by the way; when we say that a person or a group of people are THE most important things in our lives, we may say that because to even think of anything else would seem wrong or inappropriate – selfish even. If you insist on putting people first however, then I’ll ask you this to make it easier and get you to think: “What is the most important thing in your life after you’ve listed all the people you care about.
So what did you come up with? A good job? Your health? Accumulating wealth? Your faith? Music? Your home? Whatever you personally had come to mind, I’d like you to hold on to that for a moment as you read forward. Don’t apologize for whatever you hold dear, don’t feel you have to defend it to anyone, and resist the urge to convert other people’s most valued ‘thing’ to whatever you personally hold dearest. Whatever is most important to you is entirely valid and okay.
Now this thing you feel is the most important thing in your life; is it something you have already or is it something you are striving for? So for example, if the most important thing in your life is your health, you may be very fit and active and value that, or conversely you could be dealing with something ravaging your body and you value your health because it’s something you are acutely aware of and want to improve. Either way works.
Okay, now that you’ve got a clear mental image of whatever is of prime importance to you and you alone, what is the relationship between that ‘thing’ and the job you currently do or are striving to get? Is there any connection whatsoever? Is the connection obvious or do you really have to work at convincing yourself that what you do on a daily basis at work somehow allows you to have or work towards what you hold most precious?
Again as an example, suppose you are a budding musician in your spare time, playing at home a couple of hours a day and value music because of how it makes you feel, how you can communicate through it, and what it adds to your pleasure. Now if your day job is working at a music store, surrounded all day by both classic and new sounds, and you work alongside other people who feel like you do, you may be thrilled just to be there, and work quite happily for little more than minimum wage. If you were a welder during the day, you may derive little real joy from the work itself though it pays much better because it just pays the bills.
No knock against welding, but if you don’t feel any real joy in the work and it just gets you by until you get home and can pick up an instrument, your work may never bring you everything it could.
There are really two ways of ultimately doing full-time work that can bring you fulfillment and happiness on a daily basis; you find your dream job by design or by accident. The problem however is that over a lifetime, people mature as they age, and with that maturing, their, ‘most important thing’ in life may change. What you valued at twenty-four as the most important thing in your life led you to want to do a certain job, but at fifty-one, you find priorities have shifted, and it’s harder to switch career aspirations that mirror those new priorities. Hence people get ‘stuck’ doing work they aren’t entirely fulfilled in doing.
But here’s some consolation if I’m describing you all too well. While some people are enthusiastic about their day jobs that closely mirror what brings them the greatest joy in life, others thrive because what they do in the day is so different from their personal passion. When they get off work, they throw themselves into doing whatever is the most important thing in their life after work and appreciate it all the more because they look forward to it all day.
You do get to choose what you do with your life. You can for example devote it to others and postpone your own happiness, as is reflected in statements like, “Someday I’d really like to….but for now I have to….” Or you can say, “Whoa, I’ve only got so much time, I’d be happier doing something else and start planning a career change if that suits you.
There is no right or wrong here because it’s your life and you get to decide. No guarantees you’ll choose right, be happier in the end, or regret your choice. But if know what the most important thing in your life is, and you remind yourself of that daily, you’ve got a good compass to follow.