There once was a young emperor who asked his advisers for the answers to what he felt were the three most important questions.
- Who is the most important person?
- When is the most important time?
- What is the most important thing?
The advisers gave him all sorts of answers, none of which satisfied him.
So he went off in search of someone who could give him the right answers.
He had been told there was a very wise man that lived high up in the mountains.
Eventually he found him and posed these questions to him.
The wise man’s response was:
- The most important person is whoever you are with and if you are alone then it is you.
- Now is the most important time.
- Kindness is the most important thing.
The emperor was satisfied – he applied these lessons to his life and became a great and beloved leader.
I posed these questions on our Facebook page and also on a conference call with a group of life coaches.
The answer I got to the first question was universally “me.”
Given the response I felt it warranted a bit more explanation as to WHY we would want to think of others as more important than ourselves.
But first let’s look at what it’s like when we believe “I am the most important person in the world.”
Think about a time you were having a conversation with someone and you knew they weren’t listening; maybe they were looking at their phone or computer or just not looking you in the eye?
What that person was really saying was “you’re not that important” – and that doesn’t make us feel good!
Not being heard or seen is one of THE most horrible feelings in the world!
Sadly, because so many of us are busy – stretched so thin – it’s hard to stop and take the time to really listen to another being without thinking “how can I move this along more quickly, I need to get to…..”
While we are thinking this, we aren’t listening or paying attention to the person that is right in front of our eyes!
And not only does the other person feel bad – so do we!
When we aren’t paying attention to what we are doing – we aren’t happy either!
It actually causes us to feel tense – I don’t know about you but tension does not make me feel good!
This is the reason we want to think of others as more important than ourselves.
Because when we focus on the well-being of another not only does that person’s well-being increase so does ours!
It’s a win-win!
I used to have a boss that really walked the walk when it came to applying this lesson (yes, I’m talking about you Paul Sullivan!).
No matter what was going on when you were speaking with Paul, you had his undivided attention.
He really listened, he paid attention, he looked you in the eye – he made you feel important.
Paul applied all three answers beautifully.
Whoever he was with was the most important person, he was present for you and he always showed kindness.
He didn’t do this at the expense of his health, family or happiness.
He had wisdom – he knew how to exit when he needed to and to do it while STILL making you feel like the most important person in the world!
Life’s most important moments
When we look back at the really special moments in our life, very often it’s because we were able to make a difference in someone else’s life.
That’s what gives us the greatest joy and happiness.
When we are no longer caught up in “me” we see opportunities to help and connect with others and that is where true happiness comes from.
In one ear out the other
All too often we read a beautiful quote or hear a story with a powerful lesson (like this one) and for a brief moment we think “yes, that is how it is.”
We even feel a brief moment of joy as we think we are on to something that is now going to bring more peace and happiness into our lives.
But then we do nothing with it.
The wisest quotes and stories mean absolutely nothing if you don’t do anything with it!
How can you take the 3 most important questions and apply the answer to your own life?
As with anything don’t expect you’ll flip a switch and from this moment on always think of others as more important – rarely do we change that quickly.
Start out small.
Schedule a few dates and times on your calendar – maybe just 1 hour windows to start – where you really apply this lesson.
And, yes, I really mean schedule it on your calendar– or it won’t happen!!!
When you are with someone – really be with them.
Listen to them, look at them and show as much kindness as you can.
And if you are alone – remember you are the most important person!
Be present for yourself – in whatever task you are doing. The more engaged you are in any activity – the happier you are – that includes doing the dishes!
Be kind to yourself – no negative self-talk (that would be the opposite of being kind).
Take some time after each window to reflect on the experience; how you felt and if you did interact with someone else and treated them as more important than you – how do you think they felt?
If you find it is bringing more peace and happiness into your life (and hundreds of studies show it will!) then continue scheduling small chunks of time until it really becomes a habit that you no longer have to think about.
Habits don’t form overnight.
If you really want to take this on you will have to practice, practice, practice!
Remember the reward is that you will be happier as well as making someone else happier!
EMPEROR PENGUINS PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER MICHEL