important things in life

How to Tell What’s Most Important to You

When Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, captain of US Airways Flight 1549, said, “Brace for impact,” passenger Ric Elias realized his flight was on its way down. He also understood instantly what was important in his life. In an NPR interview, he said the experience taught him three facts about the important things in life:

  1. Since life can change instantly, we shouldn’t postpone anything.
  2. We shouldn’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
  3. Facing death isn’t scary, but the thought of leaving his kids to grow up without him was sad—what matters most is being the dad his kids deserve.
Our whole world doesn’t have to come crashing down to gain a little insight into the important things in life.

Elias told NPR, “I was given a gift of not dying that day, and to see into the future and to come back, and to live differently.” Chances are, you won’t find yourself plummeting toward earth on a doomed airliner. We sincerely hope you don’t. However, there are times when what’s really important becomes crystal clear. But our whole world doesn’t have to come crashing down to gain a little insight into the important things in life. Do you want to know how to tell what’s most important to you? Here are 5 other ways of finding out.

1. What keeps you up at night?

I know we don’t all worry ourselves out of sleep. But, once in a while, something works its way to the front of our minds and won’t go away. Typically, it’s going to be something related to the security, well-being, and happiness of our family. Pay attention. Your car, your golf game, or Monday Night Football probably isn’t on your mind at 2 a.m. So why do we give those things (and others) so much attention when our family needs us more?

2. What would you take with you?

Imagine your car is in the driveway. You have just 30 minutes to pack before the roads close and a Category 5 hurricane comes ashore to level your home. Whatever you’d bring with you is what’s important to you. And we’re sure you’d make sure the kids are on board, that your wife (if you’re married) has what she needs, and that you’ve taken care of the pets. Those are the important things in life. After they’re in the car, waiting for you, you stop and think. Other than a couple of boxes of family photographs, everything else is pretty much just “stuff,” isn’t it?

3. What do you want your story to say?

Imagine a television special is featuring your life and you’re asked to help outline the content of the show. What would you want to see highlighted? Your work? Your possessions? Your character? The way you love your family? Your children? Your choice of recreational activities? Your commitment to the community? Whatever you would insist the documentary address is what’s important to you.

4. What does your heart say when you quietly look around?

Wait for the entire family to go to sleep. Then, make yourself a cup of tea and walk around the inside of the house, slowly. Look at everything that occupies your space. Now pay attention to your heart, and listen to what it says when you watch your family sleep.

5. What do you talk about most?

What did you share with the table full of people you haven’t seen in 20 years? Odds are good that if you want your old high-school friends to know about it, it matters a lot to you. Don’t think about what you should say, but think about what you did (or would) say. Do the right things matter to you? Are you talking about the important things in life?

Sound off: What do you think are the most important things in life?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is most important in your life right now?”