The American author and motivational speaker Bryant McGill once said: “Having the right priorities in a wrong world will humble you with a journey that only love can sustain.” The painful truth of our modern existence is that what we deem as important is rarely prioritized as urgent. The mundane always seems to get in the way—there are bills to pay, dishes to clean, and mounting emails demanding our attention. Our culture assigns value to what we accumulate and how hard we work, and thus our self worth is defined within those parameters. But lost in the frenetic pace of this incessant time crunch, is that which we value most in our life. It’s ironic that we tend to take for granted those things that feed our soul and make life worth living.
I’ve never been one to believe that happiness can be directly correlated to pursuit. Happiness already lies inside me, yet it requires that I make space for it to feel nourished. Where I go astray is by comparing what I have to what you have—something that always leaves me feeling somehow inadequate. By looking upon happiness as a truly subjective construct, I become the sole proprietor of my happiness. Only yesterday, I was listening to an interview with Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, in which he beautifully articulated this concept. “Sometimes we don't have to pursue happiness; we just have to let it catch up to us.”
If you’re anything like me, you spend far too much time obsessing over the past or fretting over the future, and all the while, missing the opportunity of living in the sweet spot of “now”. So, how can we slow down long enough to let happiness “catch up to us”? Those who follow a spiritual path might suggest that the answer lies in having an acute awareness of a divine presence in every breath, and the space between those breaths.
For me, I understand the path to this inner peace, through self-discovery and learning to go through life right-sized. The simple practice of starting and ending each day with a quiet reflection on what I am most grateful for strips away a lot of the noisy chatter in my brain and allows me to see what is “important” rather than what is “urgent”. In the words of Thornton Wilder, "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." Once I have established what is most important to my soul, the next step is for me to become more pro-active instead of re-active. By prioritizing was is important over what is urgent, I begin to spend more time preparing the space for healthy relationships and activities in my life—a radical shift from the inordinate amount of time I typically spend repairing those which I neglect.
It all sounds so simple in theory—Slow down, focus from a place of gratitude, shake what’s really important to the forefront. The reality is that in order to create this life of inner fulfillment, of being “right-sized”, you will surely be swimming upstream. And what better way to end this than with the words of the irreverent W. C. Fields, “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”