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What Really Matters

For a couple of weeks I’ve had this idea brewing for a blog – that I would explain what matters in life – in 7 paragraphs or less (it’s a blog after all). Then two things happened that have compelled me to write this now. First, the two things.

1. A friend of mine, younger than I am, went to the hospital with severe chest pain and was diagnosed with angina. She is stable but her doctors are concerned about her heart, and she is concerned about her life. What really matters has suddenly become a much more important and urgent topic for her.

2. I saw a TED video about long news. This organization sifts through all of the temporarily thrilling but ultimately irrelevant news to identify the stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now. As examples think about how much news coverage was dedicated to Elian Gonzalez or the Miracle on the Hudson or the kid that might have accidentally launched himself in his parents’ makeshift weather balloon but in the end was hiding in their backyard. None of those stories will significantly affect the world 50+ years from now.

So that brings me to life. What really matters to us? I think there are 2 things.

1. Hedonistic pleasure. This is about what we experience. We like the feeling of eating certain foods or driving our cars or traveling to new places or having power over others or yes, having sex. We are talking about hedonism. And lots of our daily tasks are wrapped up in these pleasures. Almost all of our pursuit of money is to satisfy hedonistic pleasures for possessions or experiences we desire. Truth is, fun stuff feels good. And that’s one thing that matters to us in life.

2. Spiritual fulfillment. This is about who we are. We want to be someone who has faith or feeds the hungry or is compassionate. We meditate and pray to be a person who is in touch with god or ourselves. We give to charity and raise a family. We do things to help us view ourselves as good parents or good leaders or good neighbors or good people. All of these things matter too.

Our hedonistic pleasures and our spiritual fulfillment are both important, and living the good life or a meaningful life is not about one or the other. Rather for us to have the lives we ultimately want – to do what matters in life – we need to balance both. Ideally, you can discover experiences you enjoy that also help you define yourself as who you want to be. That’s it. My whole philosophy of what matters in life in 7 paragraphs. What do you think? What matters to you?