What’s Important Now? (What to Do When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan)

Something wasn’t right.

As I tried to get into my car, the front door wouldn’t open.

It was unlocked. But the door was getting stuck on itself.

“What the…?” went the voice in my head.

I only bought the car about five days ago. Everything should be functioning perfectly!

I tried opening it again, more carefully now. 

Same result. The door was jammed.

“Uh oh…”

My heart starts racing. A scared voice pipes up in my head.  

“Please don’t be broken…please don’t be broken! You JUST bought this car last week. There aren’t even 500 miles on it!”

I noticed the anxiety bubbling up. So I brought some attention to my breathing. If something had happened, I wanted to be grounded when I faced it.

And that’s when I saw…

The Damage

Bent metal. Scratched paint. Some pieces of my bumper lying on the pavement.

I was gobsmacked. 

After a moment of “This (!) can’t (!) be (!) happening (!!!)” I faced it head-on.

Someone had crashed into my brand new car. Less than a week after I purchased it. On the first day of a cross-country road trip.

Anger, sadness, and fear hit me like a punch to the gut.

In a flash, my inner-dialogue had turned into a sea of venom, victimhood, and cursing.  

“Are you f*cking kidding me?! Someone hit my car while I was in the store for 15 minutes? Oh, and there’s nobody around. Great. This punk must’ve hit me and drove off…Probably saw my brand new car and hit it just to screw with me. Seriously…on the FIRST day of this road trip?!”

I’m not proud of my angry side, but it was there in a flash.

Fortunately, I noticed it, and took action to start regaining my center.

I brought some attention to my breathing. And as my heart rate slowed, a more confident, loving, and grounded voice crept back in.

“Easy now. Let’s take a second to assess what’s actually happened. Breathe. What’s important now?”

“What’s important now?”

This question became my anchor.

All of what arose—the fear, sadness, and anger—was 100% valid to feel given the situation. 

But when I’m faced with a challenge, I want to approach it in the most effective way I can. And holding onto this boiling stew of negative emotion wouldn’t have helped me do that. So I put that pot on the back-burner, brought more attention to my breathing, and asked again.

“What’s important now?” 

This question is equal parts radical acceptance and relentless solution focus.

It challenges you to do two things at once:

  1. Embrace the reality of your situation without resistance.
  2. Clarify how you want to move forward, given that. 

And then…to do what’s most important. This wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, letting my anger take over, or whining and complaining about it. (All huge wastes of energy.)

It was doing what needs to be done. 

So I made a list in my head. Assess the scene. Take photos. Make notes. Contact my insurance…

My emotions were still in turmoil. But at least I was moving forward.

Until a woman walked over to me. She gave me a note and told me…

“I’m the one who did it. I hit your car.”

The note had her name and insurance information on it. 

As I processed this turn of events, the tide of my emotional energy reversed itself.

This wasn’t some hooligan who damaged my car on purpose. It was a sweet woman named Joan who felt terribly sorry for what had happened. 

“What’s important now?”

As soon as another person was involved, the remaining barnacles of victimhood washed away from my mind. Instead, I could focus on connection.

I put my left hand over my heart and connected with this upswell of new emotions.

  • Empathy. I put myself in her shoes. I felt how scary it must be to accidentally run into someone’s car in the parking lot. 
  • Compassion. I wasn’t alone in feeling pain as a result of what had happened. I felt love in my heart and wished that she may be absolved of her suffering.
  • Gratitude. She had no damage on her truck, and easily could have run off. But she didn’t. Nobody was hurt in the collision. It could have been so much worse.

And again, the mantra came back.

“What’s important now?”

Could I accept what had happened? Absolutely. It was obvious. And I didn’t want to waste any emotional energy resisting reality.

So…what was important now? What did I want to do about the situation?

This brought up another one of my go-to reflections: “What would it look like for me to show up to this at my best?”

In a flash, the answers came to me:

  • “Stay grounded.”
  • “Connect first, then problem-solve.”
  • “What if I could be the best person whose car you’ve ever run into?”
  • “Smile.”
  • “Breathe.” 

And so on…

So I did what needed to be done. And I kept moving on with my life.

When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan

There’s really only one question that matters: “What’s important now?”

When you take this question to heart, you stop wasting energy on things that are outside of your control. 

You don’t get lost in the past, lingering on your disappointments. And you don’t fly off into the future, worrying about what might happen next.

You bring a thousand-eyed awareness to the present moment. (What’s important NOW?) And you pair that presence with a clear intention to make whatever comes next as good as it can be.

And then…you do that.

Put it Into Practice: W.I.N.?

  1. Pause when you hit a transition point in your day. Maybe something unexpected happened. Maybe you received difficult news. Maybe something great happened!
  2. Consider: What’s important now?
    1. Accept: Can you accept what’s happened, completely, and without resistance?
    2. Prioritize: Of that many things you could do…what’s most important? What would it look like for you to show up to this at your best?
  3. Take action. Do what’s most important.
  4. Repeat. Make a habit out of asking yourself this question. Your future self will thank you. 

It’s amazing how quickly you can move on from life’s unexpected turbulences when you stay focused on the present, and what’s important now.

And the gap between doing this, and wasting countless amounts of mental energy on things outside of your control cannot be overstated.

Enough from me for now…Over to you!

What’s important now?

Get after it. And let’s make today another beautiful day.

With love,
Patrick

PS: “What’s important now?” also makes a fun acronym –> WIN!