It’s a common grade-school rebuke: “you need to get your priorities straight!” And it’s harder and more important to do than the inflection usually indicates. It’s meant more as an insult than an imperative.
That’s what we think about when we feel small, priorities. Like organizing our desires will make us matter. It can move our actions, though, so maybe through that, setting our priorities straight really is what makes us important.
It needs to be an imperative, then. If prioritizing, finding out what’s important to us, is what makes us capable of action, then prioritize we must.
Of course, certain priorities are inherently sedentary. For instance, I want to be unbroken the way some people want to be famous, or married. It just seems like a universally desirable thing. Like those people who want to be married and can’t fathom anyone not viewing marriage as the paradigm of human existence—that’s how I feel about being safe.
So that particular urge probably isn’t going to motivate some great campaign on my part to make the world a better place. But the only thing that is going to do that is figuring out what you care about, because only then can you do whatever that is. It’s enormously important. It’s why everyone tells you to not freak out about choosing a major freshman year, because you should kind of be freaking out about the underlying concept of choosing a major, which is getting your priorities in order. That’s a big topic that can keep you up at night. You’re sort of defining who you want to be even as you’re discovering who you already are.
Define, discover, organize, pursue. It’s what will make us matter.