On Remembering What’s Most Important

“Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths and values.” – Sai Baba

On April 14, 1912, at 10:00 p.m., the Titanic crashed into an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic and four hours later sank. The story is told that one woman while boarding a life boat asked if she could go back to her room. She was given only three minutes to do so. She hurried down the corridors, already tilting dangerously, and quickly scurried through the gambling room piled ankle-deep in money.

In her room were her golden treasures waiting to be taken, but instead, she snatched up three oranges and hurried back to the boat. One hour before, she would have quickly chosen diamonds over oranges, but in the face of death, values are seen more clearly.

Unfortunately, many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No unity. Their desires change as fast as the culture and they are quickly swept off their feet by the newest fashion, the most recent technology, or the latest worldly pursuit. In exchange, they sacrifice a life committed to their values.

In contrast, a firm conviction of your heart’s values leads to a single, unified life – one that is not tossed about as easily. It is built on the things you hold most true to your heart. And no new advertising campaign is able to change it.

The first step in finding this inside-out simplicity is to identify your deepest heart values. This process should not be made too difficult. It is highly valuable – even life-changing – yet, remains neglected in countless lives:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and pencil.
  2. Across the top, write “What I Most Want to Accomplish with My Life.”
  3. Write down whatever comes to mind.
  4. When the moment feels right, stop.

Of course, the harder step is to actually live by those values when the pressures of a consumerist society pull you elsewhere. Living these values out will require careful evaluation, intentional decision-making, a commitment to live different than everyone else, and constant reevaluation.

But taking the time to remember what’s most important will always pave the way for a life better lived. And it ought not go neglected in our lives.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Joshua, I really enjoyed your post today! Thank you for reminding us all what is more important in our lives…it’s not the things! Each day I wake up and try to put more value and appreciation into the people I come into contact with rather than the stuff that surrounds me!

  2. says

    Thanks Joshua, inspiring Post! There’s only one thing i don’t get. Why do you say
    “What I Most Want to Accomplish with My Life.”. Does it always have to be about Accomplishing something? Couldn’t it also be “What really makes me feel good” or “What does really add value to my life”?
    Regards
    Hubert

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Hubert. I appreciate your second question more than the first. I think life should be about far more than seeking out what makes me feel good. In fact, I think deep-down rarely would someone say, “Chasing what really makes me feel good” is their life’s biggest goal. Your second question seems to arrive quicker at my thoughts.

      That being said, it’s likely a matter of semantics. I think all of us want our life to count for something. And that’s what I meant by “accomplish.” To have an end goal for which we live our lives that is larger and more stable than the ever-shifting culture beneath us.

      • says

        I think we have put labels on accomplishment like ‘specific’ and ‘measurable’ and ‘tangible’ when often the things we truly want to accomplish aren’t any of these. I totally want my life to be an accomplishment, I just need to define what that is for myself.

        Thanks for the exercise and the reminder. My husband and I have been talking about this for a while. It is tough stuff, but so worth it and foundational to everything else we do.

        • says

          Thanks Lorilee,
          these labels are what make me feel bad about the term. But as you say, i just need to define what that is for myself.

          You’re very right.
          Thank you!

    • Andre Kibbe says

      Accomplishment implies contribution, a dimension of actualization missing from what makes “me feel good” or what adds value to “my” life.

      Of course, you can view accomplishment in more cynical terms of status, but that’s not the vibe I’m picking up from Joshua’s post. It’s more about fulfillment through making a dent in the universe.

  3. says

    Great post Joshua, It is abosolutely necessary to remember what is important if we really want have a great life. Pursuing things, status, money and so on will never provide that. I do have agree with Herbert though in that asking one’s self “what I most want to accomplish ” can be interpreted as really doing what everybody esle defines as a success. I think we can simple ask, “What is most important to me”. This will help us get what we are looking for as it will be based upon our values, not those of the external world.

    • says

      I really like framing the question this way. “What is most important” to me is not only easier for me to answer, but also feels more meaningful than “what I most want to accomplish.” I can’t accomplish raising smart, compassionate children, but it is most important to me. Likewise, I can’t accomplish a close walk with God or a lifelong marriage, at least not in the conventional sense, but those things are also at the top of my most important list.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for your post today. It is very significant for me because this has been at the forefront of my mind lately. What you say is so true. We strive each day to live according to our values because if you don’t have values then where does that lead? Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom for somepeople to realize what they value and sometimes it takes a life changing event, such as the one you describe from the Titanic… for us it was the latter. A life changing event put it all into perspective for us and we began to live and to think differently. I am thankful for the change and the fulfillment living our lives brings us.

  5. Amanda says

    JUST last night I finished reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrim’. The main character journeys through the Road of San Tiago in search of his sword that will make him Master. In the end, he realizes that he must know and understand HOW he will wield his sword instead of focusing on where it is.

    Reading this post, it has reinforced the lesson I learned through ‘The Pilgrim’. We live our life seeking out rewards but rarely do we stop to think why we want them. My advice is, after you make your “What I Most Want to Accomplish with My Life” List, take some time to think about each item on your list. Ask yourself WHY you want to accomplish those things i.e. what you will do with those accomplishments. Once you know that, your path becomes clearer.

  6. says

    This is powerful, Joshua, and I enJOY the discussion above about what words mean, realising that words “mean” so many different things to each of us.

    Leaving the World a bit brighter, lighter, and more gentled is what matters most to me as far as what I want to “accomplish” at this stage.

    I love the use of the word “unified” in your post. That seems to BE what is happening in me as I continue letting go of “things” and “stuff.”

    I am discovering in me someone far more simple and whole by NOT trying to fit me into the World. I am discovering deep contentedness in simply BEing, whether I fit in or the World fits me.

  7. Mustafa says

    Great post Joshua. Thanks mate.

    People mostly customize their future by taking care of the Most important (MI). Future has an unknown variable death. Unfortunately we cannot Google information on when we will die. If one reflects on death MI can change.

    Believers in God have hope of an afterlife. Try your MI’s from a believers perspective.

  8. says

    Such a good reminder. Thank you for encouraging us to stop and think. That short moment of pause may just change the direction of our lives!

  9. says

    I did that list. What felt strange is that after 4 things, I felt a need to stop. Nothing could top those. I liked that I was not required to sit for 60 seconds and write. I have 4 things that mean most to me that I want to do. All but 1 are never-ending goals.

    1. Write a book. (I want to write more than 1, to be fair, but one is my goal for now).
    2. Bring people to Christ. (I cannot save anyone, but I can show them who can)
    3. Build relationships. (Love people)
    4. Raise children in God’s love. (It is not about having children. Or even getting them a good education. Nothing matters more than God’s love)

    That’s all I need to do. I want to do a lot of things. But these seem necessary. 2 and 3 feel urgent. I could write a list of hundreds of things I would like to accomplish… but this is really a completed list.

  10. Emma says

    I love this article. I wonder if you might do some writing on grief/loss/mourning and minimalism. Often objects provide comfort to people after loss. Recently, my friend’s mom passed away. I found it hard to know what to send her. I didn’t want her to have the burden of another object to care for (as so many in the South give food, plants, etc.) but I wanted for her to know that am present for her loss. My last experience of loss was before I began this journey of simplifying my life – and at that time the thoughtful gestures of plants and food and cards meant a lot to me. I didn’t think about this until I was at the funeral service for my friend’s mother. Of course, I will spend time with my friend in the coming weeks and show her my presence in that way – but it will be a while before she has time to sit down with people and talk. How can we reconcile this – wanting to comfort others without stuff at their time of loss?

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