The most important thing in life

Years ago, I heard someone — I think it was a stand-up comedian — say that he knew what was the most important thing in life:

“The unexpected.”

At the time, his explanation made sense: If you woke up in the morning and knew exactly what you were going to get out of the day, you might not bother. Knowing a good day was on tap would take away some of the adrenaline rush when it actually happened. If you knew it’d be a bad one, well, you’d want to stay under the covers.

Not sure why this has stuck with me for so long. But I remember when I realized he was wrong, because I recognized what the most important thing actually was:

Hope.

And I wanted to debate this long-forgotten comedian/philosopher about my revelation, convinced that it’s the possibility of good that actually gets people moving and inspires them to be the human beings we all know and love.

I’m glad that didn’t happen, because a couple of weeks ago, I came up with a new answer.

Belief.

Hope is important of course; but in some ways it’s transient. We can hope for meaningful, noble things… but we can digress into hoping for warmer weather or that we hit all the green lights on our commute.

What really gets us out of bed in the morning, without hitting snooze and maybe without an alarm at all, is belief. We don’t just cling to a wish that it will be a good day; we’re empowered to make it so. Conviction that we can serve as a good parent or citizen. Belief that a relationship or cause is worth dedicating ourselves to. Confidence that the work we do is meaningful and making a difference.

Of course, belief can be based in spirituality. I remember being invited to a church group’s awards dinner 20-some years ago. Technically, I was an adult at the time, but I felt aimless and ungrounded listening to a couple of teenagers give witness to their belief and blessings from God. Their passion was unwavering and clear.

Based in religion or elsewhere, to have that kind of fire within — to know something is so valuable to you, that an internal force is constantly guiding you — is what matters most. It can’t be manufactured or faked. True belief is authentic, real, and palpable.

When it’s missing, you can’t make up for it. We all know someone who is going through the motions because they’re missing a sense of purpose.

But each and every one of us has something to offer the world; it’s just a matter of finding the trigger to unleash that power. Think about the people in your life who are on a mission, to the point that it is what defines them to you. They’re driven and won’t stop.

That kind of belief is a blessing. It needs to be cultivated and fed to sustain us for today and the next day and the next. When we believe, we’re unstoppable.

What do you believe in?

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