Mark Twain boldly stated that the two most important days of our lives are the day on which we’re born and the day on which we find out why. While I love the sense of life being inherently meaningful that suffuses this quote, I’m not convinced that discovered my life’s purpose is a single day event. Rather, for me, finding the ‘why’ of my life has been something that’s involved lots of different experiences, conversations, mistakes and changes. Also, I don’t think it’s something that I’ve arrived at yet: although I know what brings meaning to my days just now I fully expect that, as I continue to live and the world around me continues to change, my purpose in life might change too. However, knowing what matters to me for now has been really powerful in being able to feel at peace with the decisions I make, the things I do (and don’t) do and the sense that I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
So, from my experience it’s worth taking some time to step back and reflect on what really matters for you. We live in a busy, noisy world with lots of different voices all very ready to tell you what should matter most. Taking time to tune in to what you have to say on this is as important as ever. If this is something you haven’t done for a while, you might what to make a bit of time to try out one or two of the following activities:
- Listen to your future self: Take some time to think about an older old you. From all you might have experienced, what would you have to say to yourself? What might have proved to be most important to you? What could have worked best for you to feel good and do good? Note this advice down for yourself. Invite a friend or family member to reflect on this with you. You can also check out what people from age 7 to 77 told the artist Susan O’Malley their 80 year old self would advise.
- An Alternative Billboard: Suppose one of the billboards you pass most days was handed over to you with one simple request – to send a message to everyone who saw it that would help them do more of what mattered and less of what didn’t. What would you share? It might be your own words, or a song lyric, line from poetry, piece of family wisdom or saying that really resonates for you. It might not be words at all. You can see what other’s have chosen to share through the work of The Joy Team in the USA and the values for a purposeful life that have been celebrated through motivational billboards from the values.com #passiton campaign.
- Check in with your everyday: A big part of knowing what matters to us is living it. It can be interesting to check in with what we know matters most to us and makes us feel good and purposeful, alongside what we’re actually spending our time doing. To look at this question on the smaller scale of ever day acts start by creating two lists: one list of what matters to you most and what makes you feel good (in an authentic, long-lasting, deep-rooted, makes-me-ready-to-do-more-good way) and a second list of things you know deplete you and take away your feel-good-do-good energy. Once you have your lists review your past week. How many things did you get do from your first list? How many things did you do from your second list? If this makes you feel like you’re not getting to do enough of your ‘feel-good-do-good’ things, look forward to the week ahead and aim to find two times when you could be doing more from this list. Keep the lists and repeat this for the next few weeks, especially aiming to find more opportunities (even 15 minute ones!) to do more of what matters to you.
Thanks to Tribe Porty’s wonderful space and Action for Happiness’s wonderful Exploring What Matters course, we’ve just embarked on an eight week adventure to find out more about what makes for a happy and meaningful life. Our first session explored this very question of what matters most. Our next session will look at what really makes us happy before we go on to six more sessions focusing on ways to calm our minds, connect more with others and bring more happiness to our relationships, workplaces and communities. There are still spaces to join us this Thursday (11th May, 7pm – 9pm). Get in touch if you’d like to be part of this or like our Facebook page to keep in touch with what we’re doing.
And remember, the time to be happy is now.
Claire from HappyPorty 🙂