It’s hard for anyone to tell me what should be first in my life. Well, it’s not hard for them to do it. It’s hard for me to hear it.
There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that people have been trying to set my priorities for almost as long as I have lived. So, I’m tired of that. But, also, it is important for me to figure out my own priorities and make my own “first things foremost.” That makes me a self-actualized person.
And, yet, perhaps out of my experience as a parent and grandparent, I understand the urge to tell someone else, especially someone less experienced, what is foremost and should be put first on their list of priorities.
But this post is not going to be me telling you, the reader, what you should put first. My approach to these important issues will be three-fold.
- First to speak in general, what people in general should put first, based on my experience.
- Second, to illustrate what happens when we don’t put first things foremost. It’s true that what we don’t take care of falls apart.
- Third, to help you find the motivation in yourself to put first things foremost.
The Squeaky Wheel
What we usually put first is pretty similar to oiling the squeaky wheel first. People (such as parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, police, ministers, etc) have a way of making us respond to their needs first. “It’s urgent,” they insist. “It’s important.” “I won’t love you if you don’t…” “You will go to hell/ jail/ the same class over…if you don’t.” And the like.
So, to avoid banishment, another fight, failure, not being liked, not belonging, et cetera, we attend to the business of complying with them and falling in line. This becomes habitual.
It is the opposite of becoming self-actualized. Whether we recognize it or not, it makes us angry and destructive. Worse, what needs to get done for our mental and physical health gets put on the back burner. We might even console ourselves that we have avoided a disaster.
What we should have done, for our own health and thus for those that depend on us, is to take care of our vitality and our mental clarity. Those are first and foremost.
The Likely, Rusty Result
We see this so many times in those that have recently retired. They are out of shape. Their health may have been compromised by job stress or injuries related to the workplace. Their mental focus is starting to wane due to a lack of variety, stimulation, years of weariness and television. All they can think of is starting to live for themselves, at long last.
My father passed away last year, partly due to age (he was not old), partly due to lack of exercise, partly due to ignorance of basic health maintenance practices (like vitamin supplementation and the necessity of hydration) and partly due to his mindset that his body didn’t matter as much as the spirit. He was willing to let the body take care of itself because it wasn’t really that important to him.
That is what happens when we don’t put first things foremost. Our body and mind slip into entropy. It would be like driving a car and failing to be interested in the basics necessary to keep it going. Or flying a plane and not doing a flight check first.
This is what faces us if we don’t pay attention to what’s foremost for life: chronic pain, disability, immobility, depression, lack of purpose and difficulty in finding solutions to life’s problems. Entropy will find you. It is written into the process of life. All you have to do is deny it will ever happen to you that way.
First and Foremost
The body may seem complex and difficult to manage, but if we gave our body the attention we give to those “squeaky wheels” that demand that we pay attention to them first, we would have enough time to learn, understand and love our bodies.
The same is true of our brains. We can train them, improve them, make them more efficient and keep them from sliding into diseases that are a result of poor use. It’s a “use it or lose it” scenario. And I’d rather lose those people that are so intent on me paying attention to their needs first than lose my health or mind.
Completing the Picture of Health
Is there a solution? Yes. It’s motivation. Sometimes this motivation comes when we face death and disability in the face, like I did with my dying father. Sometimes we hit bottom in other ways, such as a personal health crisis. Sometimes we grow up in a part of town that has become inconsequential (to put it nicely) and we see what confronts us if we don’t personally move forward with positive action. Or maybe we hear a motivational talk that helps us see what awaits us if we don’t take committed action.
Motivation is the key to staying on top of the game. What will motivate you? It’s a question only you can answer. It becomes your good squeaky wheel. Your call to action. Your choice to live fully. It’s not someone else telling you what you should do. It’s your voice and your insight regarding what is at stake.
It’s your very life and it starts now. First and foremost.