Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Most Important Thing

“What is the most important thing you will ever do?”

Chris at AONC asked this question last week on AONC’s Facebook fan page and at last count about 80 comments had been left with readers’ answers to the question.

This is an excellent question and one that I think gets asked not just once in a person’s life but over and over again because it is about now and about a lifetime. It’s not so much about narrowing one’s focus to that perfect important thing but rather it’s a sifting or winnowing process for releasing what is less important (or maybe even unimportant) and choosing how to find and do what is important.

The risk

There is a risk in taking the question and shaping life into the conquest of one mountain (or river gorge, or ocean) labeled The Important Thing to Do. Life, as I have discovered, is rarely composed of one defining mountain just like the landscapes of Earth. In the same way mountain climbers rarely set out to conquer one summit and then retire. Instead they typically select different types of ascents with different challenges to refine their knowledge, fitness and skills; and also to push beyond the limits of their existing comfort and achievement in some way.

I have done many important things in my life; and some of them beforehand did not seem possible. I was married for nearly thirty-five years to one person; I raised four children to be confident, responsible, contributing adults; I earned two college degrees; I am and have been a contributor both as an employee and as a volunteer; I have cultivated my faith though sometimes it’s with a spoon; and I keep moving forward even in the face of prevailing headwinds.

Why?

When I was younger I thought – over time of course – that the most important thing I could do was be the quietest daughter, the ideal perfect wife, the loving protective mother, the smartest person in the room, the program superhero, the self-effacing sacrificial saint, and the strongest boat in the hurricane.

Each of these was initially undertaken as the mountain to conquer that would become my epitaph of accomplishing something important. But what I have come to realize is that we don’t secure or repay for our time here by pursuing mountains to conquer but rather becoming our real selves through the process of navigating the landscapes of our journey to become the self the world needs for us to be.

So my answer to Chris’s question is this:

The most important thing I will ever do is to keep choosing to accept challenges and the refining process to continue becoming the real me the world is always looking for both now and in the future.

2 comments:

Melissa Donovan said...

As I was reading this, I kept thinking that the most important thing is constantly changing (for me, anyway). One month, it's rebuilding my business. The next month, it's learning to play the guitar. Then, it's the birth of my nephew. My priorities are constantly changing.

Then, I read the line "But what I have come to realize is that we don’t secure or repay for our time here by pursuing mountains to conquer but rather becoming our real selves through the process of navigating the landscapes of our journey to become the self the world needs for us to be."

I realized that this is truly the most important thing that any of us can strive toward: being ourselves all of the time.

Deb said...

@Melissa - I think it is very common to get caught up in figuring out if we're doing the most important thing "out there." And we forget the what we do on the inside is usually more important for the long run. I don't think that is limited to the young either.