What Really Matters

image courtesy of shutterstock.com

My intention with each of these posts is that you’re challenged to interrupt the noise and routine in your life, just for a moment, to think more deeply about what really matters in life… your relationship with yourself and with others in your professional and personal life.

(I published this article on LinkedIn back in August 2021. In case you missed it, I’m publishing it here as well).

Our world can be rocked when a significant event occurs like the 9:11 terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers, a debilitating injury or illness, a near death experience, or the death of someone very dear to us.

Experiences like these, shake us out of taking life for granted and awaken a deeper yearning for what really matters in life.

Rather than wait for a significant event to shake you out of taking life for granted, now is a great time to shake it up by pausing, reflecting, and acting on what really matters in life.

What really matters to you?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself.

Getting clear on what really matters, helps you gain clarity to better manage setbacks or opportunities life presents.

Imagine facing life’s difficulties with a sense of calm, perspective, optimism, and confidence, rather than panic, overwhelm, pessimism and fear.

Whether in your professional or personal life, when you shake it up and get clear on what really matters you will enjoy a more meaningful, authentic, and intentional life.

You might know someone who just takes life in their stride. No matter what life throws at them, whether setbacks or opportunities, they seem to manage each situation with a calm resolve.

Maybe that’s you, maybe it’s not.

Either way, knowing what really matters helps you invest your time, energy, and capabilities on things you have some control over in your life, rather than worrying about things you have little or no control over.

This is not about looking at life through rose coloured glasses. Nor is it the pursuit of happiness.

When you have the courage to shake it up and determine what really matters in your life, you will likely experience a range of emotions.

With some things that really matter in your life you will experience happiness, joy, wonder, and love.

With others, you will experience sadness, confusion, anger, and frustration.

When you have the courage to shake it up and get clear on what really matters, understanding and accepting your emotions becomes easier and you are more able to make better decisions to help you live a more meaningful, authentic, and intentional life.

To help you shake it up, to pause, reflect and act on what really matters, researchers in psychology, philosophy, and behavioural sciences have identified five major themes.

1. Living your life aligned with your personal values:

Life is full of moments where you arrive at an intersection of choice.

In these moments of choice, your personal values help guide you to make wise decisions.

Your values are those personal qualities you choose to live your life by. They guide you to strive to be at your very best as a human being.

Arriving at your personal values is one thing, but how do you breathe life into them and use them practically in your professional and personal life?

The answer is at any moment of choice you might face, challenge yourself by asking this:

Is this action I’m about to take or this decision I’m about to make, moving me toward or away from living my personal values and being at my best?

This is how living your life aligned with your personal values helps you get clear on what really matters.

2. Living your life by using your personal character strengths

Character strengths are different to values.

Values are your deepest desires on how you want to behave; whereas character strengths are elements of your character that you excel in, enjoy, or inspire you to live your life aligned with your values.

Your character strengths allow you to put your values into action.

Researchers have identified twenty-four character strengths, and each of us have up to five that are more prominent than the others; these are known as your top or ‘signature’ strengths.

Understanding and applying your signature strengths helps boost your well-being and life-satisfaction.

For example, if one of your signature strengths is ‘love of learning’ and your workplace provides ample opportunities for learning and personal growth, you will feel energised and motivated.

Whereas, if your workplace denies you those learning opportunities, you will feel frustrated and demotivated.

If one of your signature strengths is ‘teamwork’ and your workplace provides ample opportunities to work as a team member across a range of projects, again, you will feel energised and motivated.

Whereas, in the current global pandemic, if you are forced into working remotely, the joy, energy and motivation you derive from working in teams could be seriously depleted and leave you feeling a sense of separation, loss and demotivated.

What really matters is your understanding and being able to use your top or signature strengths to live a meaningful, authentic, and intentional life.

You can learn more about your own character strengths by visiting the website www.viacharacter.org

3. Living your life in ways that bring you a sense of personal meaning

People with meaning in their lives experience higher levels of mental and physical well-being than those who are searching for or lack meaning in their lives.

Understanding what brings you a sense of personal meaning is not the same as trying to discover the meaning of life.

You might experience meaning in your life through music, sport, learning, nature, hobbies, art, meditation, or spirituality.

However, one of the most reported pathways to meaning in life is through your relationships.

When you have positive relationships, meaning is experienced through feelings of safety, sharing, contribution, growth, empathy, inclusion, friendship, and love.

What would your life be like without the positive relationships you have?

A word of warning here: Just as you are hard-wired with a yearning to belong, humans also have an innate ability to take things for granted.

We get used to things in our lives very quickly. Psychologists refer to it as hedonic adaptation.

That positive feeling you get from new car, new house, or new clothes, doesn’t take long before you get used to it, start taking it for granted and that initial positive feeling is diminished.

Be careful not to become used to, take for granted and diminish that life-enhancing sense of meaning you get from your relationships.

Put simply, relationships really matter.

4. Living your life intentionally

Paying attention to your intentions is one of the most helpful ways to help guide you to living your best life.

Living your life intentionally means having a mindful awareness of what’s really motivating your decisions and actions, and the impact those decisions and actions will have on others.

A powerful pathway toward living your life intentionally is to write out Intention Statements.

An intention statement clearly outlines what you want FOR others, not just what you want from them.

It covers what you want others to experience, feel, or have as a result of your intentional decisions or actions.

In your personal life, an intention statement might focus on what you want for your partner, rather than what you want from them; or in a workplace setting it might cover what you want for your customers, rather than what you want from them

When you are clear about your intentions for others and take positive and appropriate action to deliver on those intentions, you make life better for them in some way.

Living your life intentionally also boosts your own well-being … you feel good about doing good for others.

In workplace settings, when people choose to work intentionally to make life better for others, the business is positively impacted across almost every measure of success.

Paying attention to your intentions really matters.

5. Living your life authentically

The fifth major theme researchers have identified to help you determine what really matters in your life, is living your life authentically.

To live your life authentically is to intentionally choose actions that are aligned with your personal values and goals and to hold yourself accountable for the impact of those actions on yourself and on others.

Living authentically in any given situation, is a constant appraisal of the costs and benefits, the risks, and rewards of being open and truthful about what you genuinely think, feel, and want to do.

Living your life authentically will take courage and vulnerability and on occasion it might not be possible or preferable for you to choose complete authenticity.

For example, sometimes it shows more integrity and empathy for you to hide your thoughts and feelings if it does unnecessary harm to others.

To live authentically will require you to:

  • live your life aligned with your values
  • live your life by using your character strengths
  • live your life in ways that bring you a sense of meaning, and
  • live your life intentionally.

Make 2022 Really Matter

There is no better time than now to shake it up, to pause, reflect and use these five major themes to help you determine what really matters to you and ensure you’re living your best life – a life full of meaning, intention, and authenticity.

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2 Responses

    1. Thanks Stephen. I agree with your recommendations … all three have evidence-based research strongly associating them with increased well-being.

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