Are We Ignorant of What’s Really Important?

what's important

WE all know what’s important in life, right?

If you had to write them down, we’d possibly see a list that looks a little like this:

  1. Spending time with Family and friends
  2. Looking after my health
  3. Having a steady income
  4. Doing things that make me happy ….etc

Yep, pretty clear cut, but I’ve been thinking about this list a lot lately.


I wonder if what we feel is important, doesn’t necessarily correlate with what we actually DO to ensure these things are important in our lives?

We’re all probably guilty of working way too hard at times and struggled as a result to find quality time with our family and in the rush of daily life, cheap convenience food has been consumed to the detriment of our guts.

I’m guilty of this and then some.

So if we think we know what’s important, why is there no strong correlation between our what’s-really-important list and what we actually DO, to ensure these important priorities remain exactly that?


As a knock on effect from this, it feels like there’s something universally missing from this list? Something that effectively influences all the items on it?

Maybe it’s understanding the way our mind works, knowing how and why we make the decisions we do? That’s got to be as important, if not priority number 1 on the list, right?

This is the idea proposed by social psychologists of late.

Understanding why we think the way we do and in turn why we DO the things we do, might just be the missing link in ensuring we have more of a correlation between our perceived priorities and our real world experiences.

Sounds heavy, but it isn’t. It’s really the old adage of “if we say we’re going to do something, we do it”, but of course this rarely happens.


Well, there are a whole range of factors we could throw into this debate for why we struggle to stick to our what’s-really-important list; a new deadline from the boss, that unexpected illness, an extreme weather event (all beyond our control) mean priorities can get shuffled about.

But Social Psychologists such as Richard Nisbett and Behavioural Economists like Dan Ariely believe the real reason we struggle is because often we are unaware of what IS actually important to us and we confuse our motivations with our actual actions.

“It’s amazing how ignorant we are of things that are really important to us.” Social psychologist Richard Nisbett.

In this interview, Nisbett simply makes the case for a better understanding of how our mind works, so that we might appreciate the forces at play when we do make decisions.

In attempting to hit the mark on that list of ours, we make decisions every moment of the day and our actions in turn then effect the outcome of our lives.

I had to work over the weekend again to get on top of paperwork, so didn’t really get to spend quality time with my loved ones.

I need this new job because it means we’ll pay off our house sooner, but that 3 hour commute each day is a bugger.

I’ve committed to this social engagement even though it’s tedious and takes me away from some quiet downtime I’ve been needing lately.

This is me….. Often!


Dan Airely suggests we are predictably irrational when it comes to making decisions.

“All of those cases we care about, people have a wrong lay theory about how they themselves will behave and because of that, they can make a mistake.

The way we rationalise our decisions if often out of whack with our list of priorities.

I’m wondering now if I took the time to really sit with these decision, took the care to listen to the thoughts entering my head and the feelings entering my body, maybe at that precise point in time, I’d make better choices.

Ones that led me to find a better correlation between my what’s-important-in-life list and my actual life.

Food for thought perhaps?


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Author: rechelleroz

Hi, I'm Rechelle. Mum to three, energetic (is there any other kind) boys and married to a Pole (he's Polish). We live on the beautiful and aptly named, Sunshine Coast in Australia. We moved here 4 years ago, after a stint in the UK. I'm a teacher, love reading and writing in my spare time and hitting the beach. My secret passion is home-grown philosophy, not the university kind. I love thinking about 'stuff' and pondering our lot in life. I'm also slightly addicted to bakery treats (now there's a whole other blog!)

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