Carl Phillips @ Tiny Buddha – Rethinking What Really Matters – The Four Most Important Things in Life – 5-12-17
Our most precious commodities are not our smartphones, 3D TVs, brand new cars, or even our big and impressive houses.
Our most precious commodities can’t be found at the bank. They can’t be ordered online. The truth is, they are on a very short list.
Amongst our most precious commodities are our purpose, time, health, and our relationships.
How I Came to This Conclusion
Several years ago I realized I was accumulating more in my life. More things that didn’t really matter to me or speak to me on a spiritual level. More commitments I wasn’t really passionate about keeping. This was all leaving me feeling a little flat and unfulfilled. It felt like something was missing, but I wasn’t sure what that something was.
A period of fairly deep reflection followed. I then started to take some action based on this reflection. Amongst other things, that action has meant:
- I have made good on long-term dreams to write creatively
- I have realized I value freedom and flexibility over the ability to just earn more, and I now seek out ways of living accordingly.
- I have accumulated fewer material possessions but enjoyed more (travel and holidays, events, life experiences).
- I have concerned myself a whole lot less with the need to keep up with others (a toxic and empty competition if ever there was one).
- I have set up my own micro-business so I have more control over what work and clients I say yes and no to.
- I have met and married a partner in travel and adventure.
- I have embraced aspects of simplicity, 80/20, and other powerful concepts into my life.
The upshot of these and other changes has been that the quality of my life has improved significantly. I certainly don’t have everything figured out (spoiler: no one does!), but my compass in life is much more in tune with somewhere I actually want to get to now.
Alongside this period of internal reflection, I started to question lots about life.
I started to weigh what I thought I wanted with what I actually wanted. I started to question what I was really seeking. Whether I was on a path that would get me there. Whether I had people in my life that could support me emotionally along the way. I started to question what it was to be successful and fully explore my own definition of it, not just follow a second-hand version.
I also started to question whether what I thought was important in life was really important at all. I reframed my life and came to the conclusion that there are several areas, commodities if you will, that are vitally important to how we feel, that need careful attention.
This is what led me to the realization that our purpose, time, health, and relationships are amongst our most precious commodities. Such a simple and obvious realization, you may protest. Well, if that’s the case, how is it that we let these suffer so frequently?
Purpose is our why. It drives our actions. It fuels our passion. It encompasses our work, our relationships, and our approach to living our lives. It wraps around everything we do. It means living our lives in an intentional way. It gives our lives a sharper focus.
Our why is what keeps us going when life gets tough.
Our why gives life extra meaning and richness.
If we’ve lost our way and are struggling with our why, we can ask ourselves several related questions:
- Where am I’m trying to get to?
- What lights me up and gets me excited?
- What’s my reason for getting up in the mornings?
- What do I want more of in my life?
- What do I want I want less of in my life?
The answers to these questions can be revealing and can lead us back to the core of what really matters most to us. Listen to these answers and use them as a guiding light. Revisit them often
We all have the same number of hours in our day. Why do some of us run around, constantly stressed, complaining we “don’t have time,” while others seem to approach life in a relaxed and happy state but still get plenty done?
Though we all have responsibilities and obligations, this often comes down to choices.
Many of us make poor exchanges on our time on a daily basis. Each time we say yes to something, we are effectively saying no to something else. The problem is, we often say yes to too much. This is where a balance starts to tip.
Instead of feeling in control of our calendar, our time is all accounted for. We rush from this commitment to that, never really feeling like we’re truly present at any of them. We squeeze evermore into our days but feel we have less and less time to do the things we really want to do, or see the people we want to see. We have less space left for ourselves.
Time is a finite resource; once spent, it’s gone. We can’t get time back but we can be selective and intentional with the time we have.
We can take control by saying yes to less and appreciating the white space in our diary. We can protect our precious time for the activities and people that give our lives the most meaning and joy.
Of course, reclaiming your time isn’t always this simple. Some of us are working several demanding jobs in order to pay the most basic of bills. Maybe we are bringing up a young family, caring for aging parents, or perhaps looking after a loved one who has physical or mental health challenges.
Finding time for anything in these scenarios can be especially tough. Even if we do have time, we feel a heavy sense of guilt if we spend it doing something for ourselves, because it seems selfish. Besides, exhaustion can hit us right when we have these small windows of time, and sleep or the TV may beckon.
If we’re limited in this way, a good start is to find small pockets of time to invest in our passion projects, our hobbies, and ourselves. Five minutes here, half an hour there can add up over a period of time.
Though we may be caregivers or breadwinners for others, we need to remember to care for ourselves along the way. We can do this without neglecting our responsibilities. In fact, the more we can look after our own well-being, the better equipped we are to be of service to others.
Another step that we can take is to try to change our situation. Maybe we can work closer to home or look to simplify and reduce our bills, and perhaps even work a little less. In the case of loved ones with challenges, maybe we haven’t exhausted our options in terms of additional help (from friends, family, or care groups).
These are all tough and very real challenges some of us face, and I will not make light of them here. All any of us can do is look to make the very best of our situations and be grateful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Sometimes we need a little outside support from others to help us along. Where there is a will, there can be a way.
So many of us take our health for granted until we have a reason not to.
We neglect exercise and then wonder why our bodies complain when we need to climb a flight of stairs. We neglect our diet and then wonder when all this extra weight crept up on us. We neglect our mental health and then wonder why we’re always stressed.
We can be kinder on ourselves. We can add regular movement to our lives. Walking, the gym, bodyweight exercises, yoga—it all counts and can all be mixed up. Our bodies are made to move, not sit humped over laptops or in front of TVs all day. Embrace the ability to move.
Eating healthily can also be simple and enjoyable. We can base most of what we eat on plants (fruits and vegetables). If we eat meat, we can treat it like a side dish and ensure most of the rest of our plates are filled with a rainbow of vegetables. No foods need be off limits, and we can still make space for the odd discretion. Healthy eating can and should be delicious eating, and should never feel like drudgery.
Being outside more, eating well, and making time to decompress can all help our mental health and general feelings of well-being. We can be gentler with ourselves by ensuring we make time to reset occasionally.
Regular check-ups with our doctors can help pick up the early signs of anything nasty, but we can also do our best to make the most of what we have by trying our best to look after ourselves.
Our modern obsession with being busy leads many of us to feel we don’t have enough time in our days. This is a particularly sorry state of affairs when it means we “don’t have time” for our relationships.
The truth is, all this busyness just might be something we have had a hand in creating. This may not be welcome news, but it does mean we can also step back from it and live another way.
Our friends, family, and loved ones are what really add spark to our lives. We need to make the time to foster these relationships. Being busy is fine, if we’re busy with the things and people that mean the most to us.
Our relationships are our bedrock, our foundation. We need to nurture them with the love and attention they really deserve.
Purpose, time, health, and loved ones. These are truly the things that make us richer and make life more complete. Let’s treat them accordingly.
About Carl Phillips
Carl is the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers live a simpler and more personally satisfying life. He is also the author of A Short Guide to Living Well and 22 Ways to Simpler Living. To read more or contact him go to his site or see his books.