The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.
Nicholas Butler (American philosopher and educator)
This area is closely related to values. The term importance rather than, for example, ‘value formation’, is used because it is more encompassing. Values are reducible to importance, but not the other way around: everything valuable is also important, but not everything that is important is valuable (e.g. earthquakes are important but generally not valued). This title also emphasises that the area is not concerned with forming moral, political or cultural values, but with the process of ascribing importance (to an object, person, activity, or idea). The factors that affect such a process and its consequences will be the main focus here. Before that it may be worthwhile considering what is important to us and why.
What is important for me and why?
Knowing what is really important to us is not straightforward. This can be distorted by immediate desires, other people or old habits. Furthermore, we sometimes make the object of our need or desire more important than the need or desire itself, which may lead to fixation and prevent us from recognising other options. For example, you are hungry and you start thinking about a burger. The burger becomes important, rather than satisfying hunger and you miss a chance to eat something nicer and healthier. So, it is worthwhile examining if what you think is important really is. The following questions may help in this respect:
- Choose an object, person, event, activity or principle and consider why it is important for you. For example, if it is football, why is this the case? Is it an old habit? Is it because it was important to your dad when you were growing up? Or is it because football is a refuge from the everyday grind?
- Which part of what you picked up is really important for you? (E.g. in the case of football it may be spending time with your mates, so football itself is, in fact, secondary).
The exercise below can help further with clarifying your priorities.