Knowing the Most Important Thing


Do you know what you really want? Do you have someone in your life who will remind you about what you want? Are you willing to act to get what you want?

I found myself thinking about these questions the other day after a funny little incident with my youngest daughter, who just recently turned two. My daughter, maybe more than any of our other children at this age, thinks the world of her mommy. All two years olds love mommy, but this little girl is particularly devoted. We were leaving church to go home, and my daughter had been playing and having a great time and wasn't too excited when I called her to leave. In fact, she was standing and protesting, rather than moving towards our van to leave, prompting me to scoop her up and carry her.

Once in my arms she started to protest in earnest, and was working herself up a full scale howling and yelling display, proclaiming loudly, "I don't want to go! Want to stay and play!" My oldest son, who was walking with us, attempted to head off the tantrum, "Hey, guess what? Mommy is going home in the van. Do you want to stay here and play by yourself, or do you want to go home with mommy?"  The impact of that question was immediate and dramatic. My two year old instantly stopped her protests and solemnly proclaimed, "I probably go home with mommy." She then wriggled down out of my arms, ran to our van, and climbed in her seat and asked her sister to buckle her in. 

The change was so abrupt, and her statement and actions so solemn and decisive, that my son and I found ourselves standing half stunned, almost wondering if that really happened, before bursting out laughing at her sudden and emphatic change of heart. 

The story was too good to keep to ourselves, and after sharing it with the rest of the family (out of earshot of the youngest) I found myself telling it a few more times to friends and family. As I repeated the story, I started to notice that there were some important lessons underneath the humor: 

1. It's essential to know what you really want, and to know it well enough that you cannot be distracted by other options. My little daughter was really enjoying playing on the church playground with some newly made friends, and she had also just noticed some horses in a nearby field that had gained her complete interest. Playgrounds and horses are attention worthy pursuits for my little girl, but she dropped them instantly when the choice was between those things and something vastly more important (going home with mom). I wish I was as good about clearly knowing what I wanted, and able to act so decisively to purse that thing.

2. Having someone in your life who can ask the questions that can give you the right perspective can make all the difference. My son was motivated to ask his question out of his very really real love and concern for his sister, and his desire to make her happy and keep her from being sad. The question he asked turned out to be essential. It made her stop, gain some perspective on her situation, and forced her to evaluate her less important short time opportunities (playground and horse watching) against her much more important goals in life (being with mommy). We all need someone in our life who cares enough to challenge our goals and actions, and who is wise enough to ask perspective altering questions. 

3. When your goal is clear, act immediately. The thing that made this little incident so humorous to us was the dramatic and instant change, from loud arm waving, feet kicking, head back protesting, to very solemn, quiet, and serious proclamation of a change in attitude, followed by instant and decisive action as she ran for the van and her seat. Thinking of my daughter's instant action challenged me to consider how quickly I put thought to action when the best course is revealed. 

What about you? Are you really clear about what the most important thing is in your life overall? How clear are you on what is the most important thing for all of the different roles in your life? As a parent, in your business, in your marriage, about your future, your degree, etc? Do you have someone in your life who is willing and able to ask you perspective changing questions? If not, what could you do to find a person like that? Once you are confronted with the choice to pursue what is most important against what is less important (but perhaps easier, or more fun) do you act decisively and instantly to pursue your most important goal?

I still chuckle every time i think of this little incident, but I also find myself thinking about some of the lessons I learned from a little two year old who knows she loves her mommy.