What really matters to you … and are you doing it?

The ebb and flow of life

It’s my contention that for advancement, success and peace of mind we need a purpose greater than ourselves.

When we’re young it’s easy to be self-focused. We’re young and energetic , and all we know is ourselves. As we grow into middle age we find ourselves asking ‘Is this it? Is this my life? What else is there?’ We move from a physical to intellectual and then spiritual focus as we seek to understand our place and value in the world.

Life’s a journey and asking these questions shows a progression beyond ourselves. We see people who are still struggling to cover the basics and some will never get to this point of self-reflection. As we grow personally so does our desire to achieve more. Sometimes life gets in the way of our most honourable intentions and not having done what really matters can feel like failure.  This post discusses ways around this.

Ebb and flow

 Sometimes we go through periods of intense, driven productivity where everything falls into place and our goals feel like they’re accomplishing themselves. We surf the wave of momentum, feeling good about the world and what we are achieving. We feel powerful.

At the other extreme, there are times where we feel overwhelmed, weighed down by our projects and responsibilities.  We feel frustrated when the ones that should be fun aren’t – they feel like a chore – and we beat ourselves up about the lack of progress and achievement.

What truly matters?

Some of our projects are extremely important to us, some matter a little and some really don’t matter that much at all. We need to define and focus on what projects truly matters and allocate time for them.

So how do we focus on what truly matters? We can’t do everything. We can’t even do everything that we consider important. We need to prioritise. Completing a project gives us power, a sense of accomplishment and builds our confidence. It makes us happy.

Starting 10 projects and having them all partially done only serves to create confusion and frustration. Select one or two and shelve the rest. Work on these, while attending to your day-to-day responsibilities, and feel the excitement of achievement. Here are a few ideas on how to get this done.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

More than just a predictable question in job interviews, this question has merit in helping us find clarity.

We are the product of our past; the sum of our actions, thoughts, relationships and experiences has shaped us into the person we are today. By design, chance or circumstances our choices have led us to this point. And today’s choices will lead to our future self. What do you want that to be?

Looking a decade into the future and imagining how we want our life to be helps us focus our energies today to make it happen tomorrow. If you see yourself as a successful musician, what do you need to focus on today? If you see yourself as wealthy and retired on a tropical beach, perhaps starting a business or gaining a promotion should be your top priority.

What you want for tomorrow directs your focus for today. We can’t wait 10 years doing nothing differently today and hope to wake up one morning with several million dollars in the bank unless we plan to win or inherit it. Most of us have to work for it so we had better start today.

What’s my reality?

We all want to love what we do. We can work out our life’s mission by listening to our heart and following what excites us.  That provides the basis for where we should be spending our time.

But following our bliss can be a problem when we have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and responsibilities to discharge.  The reality is our life’s purpose may not always be in line with our ‘practical’ career.

For those that can make it a source of income then doing what we love is a brilliant choice. For others this may not be possible. This doesn’t mean you abandon your dreams; you adapt, engage them in your own time and provide balance to your life. There are many things you can do part time and they may, over time, become a viable source of income or just stay a fun hobby. Either way they will enrich your life and provide you with balance.

What excites me?

Sometimes we’re afraid to admit to ourselves what we really want to do, and who we really want to be, because it’s not popular, or because it’s not as secure as the job we have.

It’s not an all or nothing proposition. If your passion is to play music then do that – but you may also have a day job to pay the bills. That’s reality. Set your priority, understand your reality and make them work in harmony.

Everyone is different, and because others don’t see value in your dream is no reason not to do it. I bet they’ll all get on board if you make a raging success of it, so don’t be discouraged!

What can I let go?

There are never enough hours in the day for all the things we want to do. There is, however, enough time to do the things that we’re really interested in. Many people have lots of things on the go – far too many to make any meaningful progress or to get a result. Prioritise and decide what you can let go, even temporarily, and do it.

In some cases we may have initially pursued a goal, but our interests and purpose changed. If something doesn’t mean anything to you, then regardless of how important it is to others, how impressive it may be or how important it may have been in the past, it’s time to let it go.

 Making time

When you are clear on what you want you can make time for it.

And then do it first. Once you find what truly matters, try to do that before spending time on tasks that matter less. It’s easy to get bogged down. You may have heard of paying yourself first; this also works with time.

We of course must attend to our commitments but we also waste time and energy on things that don’t matter. Don’t do it. Busyness for its own sake is a modern phenomenon. Get clever and simplify your life. You will gain clarity and the time to do the things you love. This way, every day brings happiness and you enjoy the journey towards your goal. It also makes the other stuff you have to do more enjoyable too.

Schedule it

Life fills very quickly and tasks rapidly expand to fill the available time. You need to schedule in time for your greater purpose. It’s about priorities. Remember to cut out something you are currently doing (such as watching TV) of low value and replace it with a high value activity.

If you had to make an appointment with your doctor you would schedule it in and work around it. The same should apply with your goals. Treat that appointment with the same seriousness as anything else and make the commitment.

What matters, matters

We all know there are different things that drive us – hobbies that excite us, passions that we wish we had more time to explore, people we wish could spend more time with. I believe that identifying, focusing on and spending time on what matters to us is a fundamental strategy for success. What are you going to focus on today?

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