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.
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.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees