I’m sitting out on my patio. My dog is lying in the chair next to mine, panting. It’s warm, but not uncomfortably so. Right now, I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do.
(Yay for me, right?)
The good news is that we can all find time to do what we want by determining what’s really important — and letting go of the rest.
What’s Really Important To You?
We’re all different. We have different hopes and dreams. But we all want to be happy and feel like our life has meaning. How do we make this happen in our crazy, busy world?
I think it’s crucial to be aware of what’s important to you. It may change over time, but often the core is the same. I love looking back through my notebooks from the past couple of years and seeing my (very similar) lists of “most important things:”
- Spending time with family: This has become increasingly important to me over time. Our daughter will go off to college in a couple of years, so I want to spend as much time with her as I possibly can (and minimize the nagging — a clean room is really not that important). So when she says “let’s go get ice cream!” I say “OK!” (even if I’m not really hungry).
- Reading/Learning: For a couple of years when I was climbing the corporate ladder, I didn’t make time for reading. Those were intellectually dry years of my life. I woke up one morning and realized that I really, really missed reading and learning new ideas. So I made time for it. Now it’s what I do when I’m on the treadmill and also before I go to sleep at night.
- Writing: I started blogging in 2004, and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve taken month-long sabbaticals now and then, but I always come back. The need to communicate and share ideas is so strong in me. I also like the art of figuring out the simplest way to say something and still get the point across. Writing is an amazing outlet.
- Making music: I’ve been making music since I was born (well, close to it). My mom took me and my sister and brother to nursing homes and churches to sing when we were 4, 3 & 2 years old. I’ve directed choirs in many places I’ve lived and love to sit down at the piano to sing on my own. It’s also my spiritual practice.
- Holistic Health/Wellness: Ever since I was pregnant with my daughter 17 years ago, I’ve paid attention to the health of my body by eating (relatively) well and exercising regularly. Over the last few years, I have also realized how much our physical, mental, and emotional health are interconnected. I want to share this with others. It’s my passion.
- Providing value at work: I am not one who is happy with mediocrity. Trust me, some days I wish I was, but I’m just not wired that way. When I work for somebody else, I want to make sure that I provide value and do a good job. This is important to me. Fortunately, I happen to work for a good cause: providing a quality liberal arts education!
What About Everything Else?
Everything else is not important. At least in the grand scheme of things. Of course, there are always things like bills and cleaning and grocery shopping. But you can optimize these activities to minimize the time you have to spend on them. For example:
- Online bill pay with automatic draft. Yes, please!
- One hour cleaning timer. (When the timer goes off, you stop!)
- Plan your grocery trips for once a week. (With a mid-week run for produce).
- Save up errands/phone calls/etc and do them in batch.
- And turn off your email/social media except for prescribed times!
A lot of people are going to ask you to do a lot of unimportant things. Actually, some things may actually be really important, but they don’t fit with your most important things list.
It’s hard, but after 39 years of being a people pleaser, even I have finally learned this very important skill. You can too!
What’s Really, Really Important
But do you know what’s really, really important?
- Being kind.
- Living sustainably.
- Respecting all living things.
- Moving your body.
- Eating real food.
- Not taking yourself too seriously.
- Knowing your purpose.
That’s what’s really, really important. IMHO.