This week I attended a conference for professionals working with people with disabilities. The key note speaker talked about how we often think about setting goals according to what is “important for” the individuals we serve. She encouraged a paradigm shift, that we instead focus on what is “important to” them. She said with that subtle shift they would naturally want to work towards their goals. That it would be organic and easy and fun.
I loved what she was saying, and believe it is an essential shift in thinking that will make the quality of life for folks with disabilities better. And I also know, it’s a concept that isn’t just applicable to them. The ‘norm’ of trying to better ourselves according to what is “important for us”—runs throughout our culture. “Important for” are all the “shoulds”. I should exersize, I should eat healthy, I should make more money, I should keep my house clean, I should be a better mother.
“Important to” however are our authentic desires, our wants. I want to feel energized and physically able, I want to live a long and vital life, I want to experience life fully, I want to live in a peaceful environment, I want to help my children to be happy and successful.
What we often do is put the cart before the horse. We laboriously fill the cart with all the shoulds and the goals that go with them. The horse (what we truly want) is there but it can’t push the cart from behind. Try as we might the cart doesn’t seem to move and when it does, it’s very little.
The horse cannot be an after thought. It needs to be cared for and fed. The first step to living the life we want to live- starts with naming our “important to.” When we get the horse set for the journey, suddenly the goals naturally begin to fill the cart. The horse is the engine that allows the doing of life to happen with ease. Sure there is work to be done but it isn’t such a struggle when everything is in order.
I once had a heavy cart and a tiny uncared for horse and I got nowhere. The day I noticed the horse standing there and started to nurture it, my life began to change. I discovered my “important to” was about presence and peace and wholeness. My horse grew (got in front) and the cart began to move with ease.
Today I celebrate my 32nd birthday, and what am grateful for above all else is that horse. I have come to trust in it, to have faith that it will carry me to the places of my dreams. People ask me all the time about how they can stop struggling and finally be free. It’s a process and different for all, but one thing I do know is that it is vital to put aside the “important for” (maybe for the first time in your life) and embrace what is “important to” them. Magic happens.