What Matters?

When someone very close to you passes away very suddenly, you often hear people say something like, ‘it certainly puts things into perspective’.  For a short time it can cause you to reflect on what is important, to give those close to you more consideration and more hugs.  Invariably I would observe that it doesn’t last and the norm is to go back to being as busy as you were after a few weeks.  We may have had a realization that some of these activities were not really that important to us, but still we go back.

In her book Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte talks about how the notion of the Ideal worker (particularly in American society) sets unrealistic expectations about how much time we should be at work, how available we should be for calls, meetings and email.  In trying to be the ideal worker it’s easy to develop a sense of being overwhelmed, once you throw in the expectations of being parents, of managing a home, being part of a community/church group.   In this situation it’s hard to continue to  ‘put things into perspective’.

Without a life changing experience, I know for myself and my clients that it can be hard to slow down and answer questions like, ‘what is my perspective?’, ‘what is my life purpose?’, or more simply, ‘What really matters to me?’.  I believe that without satisfactory answers, your happiness and the happiness of those around you can be negatively impacted.

The sudden passing of someone close reminds us that life has few certainties, and using some time to identify ‘What matters?’ is a good strategy from my perspective.  It will take time and effort to answer the question of what you want to do with the precious time that you have left, and this isn’t time that we are used to committing in our ever busy world.

If this is you, it may help to provide my ‘What matters?’ list to give you a starting place.  Here is that list:

  • I want my family to grow – I will ensure my next time with my family is ‘quality time’
  • I want my work to enable people live and work to their potential.  In today’s activities I will seek out opportunities to enable the success and happiness of people I interact with.
  • I want to be as healthy as I can – every day I will exercise physically and mentally.
  • I want to be of value to my community of friends and colleagues.  I will try to make today’s interactions as enriching as they can be.

I have 4 items, 3 or 4 is a good number – our brain finds it hard to manage more big items.  I also have a here and now element to my what matters list – if I am not doing something today, I may not have the chance tomorrow.

If you have your list together, you already know how powerful it is to recognize what is most important to you and as a guide as to where you spend your time.  If you do not, my recommendation is to book a one hour appointment today – just you, or if you prefer, let someone important in your life to be part of the conversation.

Once you have your ‘What matters?’ list, set yourself parameters, goals and measures for these.  If you end up with too much to do (or too little) in practice, you can adjust it.  There are a number of time management techniques to maximize how you use your time – these are so much more useful once you’ve defined your ‘What matters?’

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