Things That Matter
Yesterday I enjoyed some quality writing, studying at thinking time at our public library. Near the end of this gift, I had the spontaneous brainstorm of jotting down a list of the things that "give lasting pleasure," the true drivers of sustainable contentment and satisfaction.
I narrowed the list down to three key umbrella items:
I did not begin with any particular end in mind. In an almost-free-association mode, I first jotted down all of the pursuits that ostensibly give satisfaction--at least for the moment. Eating a great meal. Physical pleasure. A new car or house. Getting married. Having children. Getting some cushion in your family budget. Going on an awesome vacation. Making others laugh. Gaining the admiration of another.
I also wrote down items such as vital relationships; powerful conversations; great stuff to read; being interesting to others; helping others in ways that make a difference. Of all the items on my list of what gives satisfaction, these last several were the ones I identified as providing that sense of lasting pleasure. And from here I synthesized them into those three categories of intimacy, creativity and learning.
If you think about intimacy, it is all about vital relationships. Knowing and being known--whether in relation to God, a spouse or significant other, a child, a sibling, a friend--or even a stranger. Some of my most meaningful conversations have been with so-called strangers, moments in time when you realize there truly are no strangers. We have many connections with others in our high-tech culture, but little real intimacy.
Creativity is indigenous to each of us, not just the skilled artists, writers, singers, Web designers, etc. It is about tapping into part of our wiring that enables us to feel most alive, offering contributions that are unique. Too much of our cultural habits rob us of the gift of our own creativity. We sacrifice it on the altar of adulthood, maybe even at the threshold of adolescence, for the sake of being "practical."
Finally, learning. Once we stop learning we start dying emotionally. When we take permission to learn deeply in the areas that most interest us, the daily drudgeries become far more tolerable. We as a society celebrate passivity far more than active learning, and I think this holds us back from meaningful living.
So when I pinpoint anything that gives me lasting pleasure, it tends to fall into one of these three categories. Looking at it from this perspective lessens the intensity or stress I devote to all of these other items of need than in the moment seem so essential.
I wonder how organizations could transform if they were composed of individuals--and they are--who personally were living an inspired life hinging on a few key essentials that have sustainable relevance.
What kind of a different impact would that enable each of us to have on our families, our communities, our companies, our non-profit organizations? So much activity is constantly abuzz everywhere; everybody is so allegedly "busy." But only a precious few may be spending the bulk of their energy on the things that truly matter.
What truly matters to you?