What is importance? What makes something important? How do I have more important things in my life and less junk?

Next on the list of concepts under my name at the top of this page is importance. See earlier posts for values, meaning, and purpose.
For something to be important, it has to change your life. If something doesn’t affect your life, it’s hard to call it important. And something changing your life means you do something different than you would have done otherwise.
In other words, something important changes your motivations — it motivates you. In other words, it affects your emotions.
earth from space
As with values, meaning, and purpose, if you want to understand something’s importance to you, understand how it affects your emotions. How important it is stems from the characteristics of the emotions it evokes.
Something evoking long-term emotions has long-term importance. Something evoking intense emotions is intensely important.
As your emotions change, a thing’s importance will change too. Water becomes extremely important the longer you’re in a desert without any. In fact, as your need for water increases, your motivation to find it will override all other emotions, meaning everything else will become less important. Once you find a constant source of water, water will quickly lose its importance since you won’t need to get any anymore.
I could write a similar paragraph as the one above about almost anything — money, better relationships, power, need to be appreciated, material objects, etc. The more they evoke emotions the more important they become. Although with things that aren’t necessary for life, you can do things other than find sources for them. You can decrease your need for material objects (that is, you can change the relevant beliefs), for example, which doesn’t work so well with water.
The more you manage your emotions (by changing your environment, beliefs, and behavior), the more you can decide and make for yourself what you want to be important.
To understand, communicate, and relate to others on what is important to them, you have to pay attention to their emotions. Doing so pays off in deeper, more meaningful relationships and greater ability to influence and lead. My post on understanding others’ values covers how to do that.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Richard Mochelle

    ‘if you want to understand something’s importance to you, understand how it affects your emotions. How important it is stems from the characteristics of the emotions it evokes.’
    Is this right? Are our emotions a sufficiently reliable guide to decide what is most important to us? Which emotions? Might anger or upset over an issue suggest that the issue demands greater attention than another which evokes feelings of merriment?
    This question cannot be resolved by our emotions. Given the vast field of attractors and distractors in our universe, it seems to me that we require a more rational approach to deciding what are the most important issues warranting our highest priority attention.
    Indeed the question concerning how we decide what is most important to focus on, is such a critically important question, that it demands far greater attention and depth analysis than has been given here. Indeed I think it is among the most important questions on Earth, and I certainly have not come to this conclusion by means of some kind of ‘feel good’ or ‘feel bad’ emotion meter.
    Dr Richard Mochelle

    1. Joshua

      You wrote an answer to your three questions for yourself by writing “This question cannot be resolved by our emotions,” so I’m not sure how open you are to other perspectives, but I’ll say a few words on reason.
      As I understand reason, logic, and such mental processes, they allow you to work from some premises to new conclusions. From Euclid’s axioms comes all of Euclidean geometry.
      As I see it, reason doesn’t tell you the original axioms. In the case of geometry, for example, if you change an axiom, you get non-Euclidean geometry. Same reason and logic, different axioms.
      So where do axioms come from for your values? Why do you care about — that is, value — your things more than other people’s things? I suggest that when you trace the logic back to the start, you’ll find your emotions. What else differentiates your values but how you feel about things?
      You say you’ve concluded something you consider among the most important. How did you come to it without using emotions?

      1. Jesse Gavin

        This reason I looked up this information is to dig a little deeper to find out what makes a person’s health in general important to them, enough to make behavior changes. I agree that logic and reason are not the only thing and actually far from it. If this were the case everyone would be healthy. People tend to make healthy behavior changes when they do tie their health to emotion. Unfortunately most of the time it is too late and it is when health is already in decline that the emotion sets in and it is too late. People who quit smoking, for example, occasionally do so when a new baby is born or when a loved one passes away. I would like to learn more on this if you have any resources.

        1. Joshua

          The top resources I’d suggest are the links contained in this post and in the “related posts” at the bottom, and to follow links in those posts, since I write about meaning, value, importance, and purpose, and how they are rooted in and affect motivation and emotion, which influence behavior.
          The next level of depth is my book https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Step-Become-Person-Others/dp/0814437931, particularly unit 3, which covers a model for the human emotional system.
          If you have more specific questions, I could try to answer them here too. I hope that helps.

Leave a Reply