What is Most Important To You?

What you ask yourself is what you will be. Ask yourself nothing, and operate on your brain’s autopilot, and you’re asking for trouble! Ask yourself the right questions, though, and you’ll be on your way to conquering your greatest enemy.

Today’s an appropriate day to begin, because Thanksgiving is that annual exercise where we’re supposed to think about what we’re thankful for. However, we’re usually more interested in stuffing our faces. That’s OK. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and people rightfully take this time to relax as much as they can. It’s definitely needed in a time where more people are stressed and unhappy, with rising suicide rates. Just make sure you’re not one of those people that gains weight you won’t lose. I’ve talked about how you can avoid that fate.

I’ve also talked about  how to make Thanksgiving fit into a good lifestyle.

Now let’s talk about the central, understated question of Thanksgiving – what is most important to you?

This is a vital question to ask, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. What is most important to you generally? What is most important to you on that day? What is most important to you in that very moment? Is watching another few minutes of TV more important than writing that one extra page? Is sticking to your “plan” for the day more important than taking a shot with that gorgeous woman that just walked by? Is it really more important to check your smartphone and be outraged, or even to leave the house precisely at that minute, than to make sure you don’t leave the house looking like this?

If you don’t consciously ask yourself these questions, chances are that you’ll choose routine over breaking new ground, entertainment when you should be working, and generally something less productive and satisfying than more.

One reason that most people don’t have financial or work freedom is because they aren’t asking themselves the right questions. Instead of asking “how can I get to work on time?” it might be better to ask “what skills do I have, and how can I use them to make my work remote so I can set my schedule on my own terms?”

What is your Great Work and how do you advance toward it today? Is it more important to watch that show right now or do something that will advance your work slowly, but surely, inch by inch?

The average American spends the day shopping, being stressed about work, outraged on social media, and trying to figure out how to entertain himself. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles incentivize us to ask these kinds of trivial questions. How many people will spend their Thanksgiving (or any other day) asking what’s really important to them? My guess is a negligible amount.

So by constantly asking yourself the right questions, you’ll be in an elite club by default. Most “guys” are not doing this, on Thanksgiving or any other day.

There’s a curious thing about questions. When you present something in question form, it captures more attention and is therefore more persuasive. People love mysteries and hate leaving a question unanswered. It comes from our need for completeness and consistency. Robert Cialdini talks extensively about this in Pre-Suasion. So when you ask yourself an important question, you’re consciously taking control of your attention and forcing it where you want it to be. You’re Pre-Suading yourself to think about, and therefore act, on what you think is truly important to you, instead of letting the spur of the moment or random thoughts dictate your actions.

What you think about is who you will become. Questions are more powerful than normal thoughts. They will force you to answer and give your brain less room to make the stupid excuses that subconsciously pop up in your brain. Normal thoughts and reasoning easily let you give into those excuses. When you ask a question: “would I rather go to the store like I was supposed to or talk to that woman?” it’s hard to say you’d rather go to the store. Normal thoughts lend room for excuses to give you a way out and boost your ego regardless. In this case, they’re a convenient cover for your approach anxiety. Questions make sure you can’t easily boost your ego because they force you to admit you’d rather simp out and take the easy way.

Ancient Olympic Games
The ancient Olympic games left no room for those that didn’t know what was truly important to them.

So this Thanksgiving, and every other day, ask yourself what the most vital thing truly is to you. Doing this will help you to conquer procrastination and force you to see through all the distractions that the modern world allows us to have. It will help you keep your priorities straight.

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season, and the back cover of Stumped asks a lot of questions. With an election year coming up, it’s the perfect gift for a politically-obsessed family member. It might even reduce tension at the Thanksgiving table (truth, I’ve yet to hear a negative response when talking about Trump in terms of persuasion and the oddities of how the human brain works).

Thanksgiving is also a time that, paradoxically, can bring up a lot of mental health issues like stress or depression, as the holidays may have the effect of elevating certain feelings of inadequacy in your mind. If you think this is happening to you, you should swallow your pride and reach out to a licensed mental health professional. My partners at BetterHelp can help you connect with one.

And if you liked this post and want me to write one for you, contact me and tell me what’s on your mind.

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