It’s hard to know where to put your time and energy on any given day.
It’s even harder to identify what matters most in life when you consider the bigger picture of an entire lifetime.
There are so many obligations and responsibilities vying for your attention, not to mention the constant lure of entertainment readily available with your digital devices.
Sadly, research shows the average person will spend over 76,500 hours on their smartphones over the course of their lifetime.
That works out to just under nine years of your life staring at your phone.
That little factoid should make you want to cry.
There have to be more important things in life than a hand-held entertainment box.
And there are.
Read on to learn the things that matter in life and how to integrate them into your days.
What’s The Most Important Thing in Life?
According to Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who interviewed dying patients and wrote a book about it, people have five main regrets at the end of their lives.
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
These regrets reveal a lot about what people believe are the crucial things in life — authenticity, life balance, self-honesty, relationships, and joy.
None of her patients talked about wishing for more money, fame, achievement, power, or time on their smartphones.
Pinpointing the one “most important thing” is difficult, but I’d bet the majority of us would claim our relationships are number one. The people we love are what count the most.
The Top 10 Most Important Things in Life
What are the ten most important things in life? Each of us may define these top ten differently, but it’s essential that you do define them.
Without clarifying your values and life priorities, you’ll stay stuck on your smartphone or focus on other things you’ll remember with regret on your deathbed.
Your first step in avoiding that deathbed regret (and living a happy life between now and then) is sitting down with pen and paper and writing about the following:
- Think about what you value, what you love, what’s important to you, and what you don’t want to miss out on.
- Also, write down what’s sucking your time and preventing you from prioritizing your priorities.
- Finally, write down any mindsets that hold you back from grabbing those golden rings of life that can make you happy.
If you need some help, here are ten things that matter in life to most people. See if they’ll make it on your top ten list.
1. Your Relationships
This one is at the top of the list for a reason. We are social animals, and we need connection with other people for our mental and emotional health.
Relationships are essential for our very survival. Plenty of research tells us that healthy social relationships have a profound impact on avoiding early death.
One study shows that a lack of social relationships negatively impacts health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
We need regular connections with family, friends, and co-workers. But the most important relationship is with a committed partner or spouse.
Being in a committed relationship reduces stress and affords a sense of purpose to your life.
2. Your Authenticity
How much of your life have you spent trying to be someone you’re not or pleasing others at the expense of your true self?
Living inauthentically and accepting a lifestyle, relationship, career, or mindset that isn’t you can rob you of inner peace. It impacts your mental and emotional health, leaving you feeling empty and suffocated.
It’s never too late to accept that you aren’t being true to yourself. You can start over and allow yourself to be the person you are meant to be and fulfill the dreams you’ve stuffed down for so long.
If you aren’t sure who that authentic person is, begin a self-exploration journey to find out. Examine all aspects of yourself — from your life choices to your opinions, mindsets, and beliefs.
Have you accepted these parts of yourself because you felt you should or because they truly feel right for you?
3. Your Work/Life Balance
Your work is what allows you to live the life you want (or at least some of it). Your career also can be inherently fulfilling and enjoyable. But your work shouldn’t define you and overwhelm all other parts of your life.
If you don’t have time for your meaningful relationships, your hobbies, or just relaxation, then your life is imbalanced in a way that will foster regret down the road.
Find that happy balance in your work, finances, and lifestyle that allows you to focus on many things you value and enjoy.
4. Your Mental Health
Life isn’t without emotional challenges, trauma, and stress. Even if you don’t have a full-blown mental illness like depression or anxiety, the slings and arrows of being human means each of us will experience mental health issues from time to time.
If you ignore the issues when they arise or fail to manage your mental health preemptively, the inevitable challenges of life will send you into a downward spiral. This spiral impacts your happiness and well-being as sure as day turns into night.
Protect your mental health fiercely by practicing self-care, engaging in therapy if necessary, and finding ways to reduce stress. Try to be proactive about it — before you have a life event that disrupts your well-being.
5. Your Physical Health
Being ill, overweight, lethargic, run-down, and sedentary doesn’t make for a happy life. If your physical health is compromised, your mental health and levels of happiness will suffer.
Studies confirm that the degree to which your life is compromised by disease or illness is directly associated with how happy and content you feel.
It’s hard to be happy when you’re in pain or otherwise debilitated and can’t participate in the activities and pleasures of life you enjoy.
Yesterday isn’t too soon to put your health on a pedestal and take care of yourself the way you’d care for a beloved child. Even if you hate it, get some exercise every day. Your body requires it.
Stop eating junk and overeating. Don’t put dangerous substances in your body that can shorten your life or make you ill. Wear a seatbelt, a bike helmet, and other necessary protective gear, so you don’t get hurt.
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6. Your Integrity
Your good character means everything. If you aren’t living a life of integrity, your relationships (and perhaps your career and lifestyle) will suffer, and you’ll lose respect for yourself.
How can you be happy with yourself if others can’t trust you or count on your word? How can you feel fulfilled or live a meaningful life without knowing your values and honoring them the best you can every single day?
Immediate gratification, doing what we want when we want, telling lies to protect ourselves, giving in to temptation — all of these things are easy traps. Work hard to maintain your integrity and get back on course quickly when you falter.
7. Your Curiosity
Don’t allow your life to become rote and boring. Try not to assume you know all the answers and have learned everything you need to know.
Remain as curious and engaged in life as you did when you were a child. Find a reason to feel awe and wonder every day.
Curious people have active minds and a desire to learn and grow. The activities involved in satisfying your curiosity can be profoundly satisfying and enjoyable. They make you are a more interesting person who can connect with a wider variety of people.
Staying mentally active throughout your life will protect your brain as you age and give you a sense of purpose.
8. Your Time
Time is limited in life. The end will come for everyone — you are no exception. If you live to age 90 (lucky you), it’s easy to calculate how many days you have left on this Earth — 90 minus your age times 365.
We’re talking in the thousands of days, days that are ticking by faster than you can imagine. You spend about a third of your life sleeping. And then there’s that smartphone statistic mentioned above.
You need to define what you want to achieve and accomplish in this life and start doing those things right now. Protect your time for what you value more than anything else. Don’t give it away easily or mindlessly.
9. Your Contribution
A life without purpose or meaning is empty. Who wants to die feeling they’ve done nothing to make the world a better place or contribute in some way?
Your contribution to the world doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. You contribute profoundly by raising your children, helping a neighbor, tending to a sick friend, or offering a listening ear.
Ask yourself, “What are some small things I can do today to help someone else or make a difference?” Be intentional about your contributions and remember them during the times when you question your value or worth.
10. Your Love
Your love for other people, yourself, and life itself is the centerpiece of everything else that matters to you. You have a vast capacity for love that shouldn’t be suppressed or denied.
Even though life and people can hurt and disappoint you, keep love burning in your heart and relish both the pleasure and pain it affords.
Give it and receive it freely, even after it’s knocked you down.
Yes, love makes you vulnerable, but vulnerability makes you compassionate, resilient, and whole. It opens you to the fullness of life that is rich and deep.
What Are the Important Things in Your Life?
Perhaps these ten things that matter in life encompass what’s important to you. Or maybe we’ve left out some of the important things that define who you are.
Write down what’s essential and valuable to you. Share your list with the people closest to you. Make it a priority to know who you are and how you want to live.
Whatever you clarify as valuable and meaningful to you, remember to take action on those things so you create a life you look back on with gratitude and satisfaction.