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What Really Matters in Life? (How to Find out What Matters Most)


We live in a world packed with material possessions and are encouraged to chase these things. As a result, our needs never seem to stop growing. So we keep running. But what really matters here?

We run after bigger television sets, newer smartphones, and better cars. We run after job promotions and luxurious holidays. We tend to think that more money in our bank accounts will translate into happier lives. While offline and online shopping can bring us short-term satisfaction, it rarely matters in the long run. There are all examples of things that don’t matter in the end.

Well then, what really matters in life? This article shows you what matters in life and how to find the things that matter most.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

What really matters in life

The wise do not chase after materialistic items. More clothes, smarter gadgets, bigger cars, and luxurious houses can make our lives more convenient, but do these things bring us long-lasting happiness?

They don’t.

What really matters in life is happiness itself. Happiness comes from having a purpose in life, loving and accepting yourself and others, and maintaining good health. Without these, you will always end up feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Research on the impact of relationships on life

An adult development study by Harvard on the lives of more than 700 people was conducted for over 75 years. The participants were divided into two groups – one group with participants who finished college and the other with participants from poor neighborhoods. Their personal and professional lives were studied, as well as their health and relationships.

While most people thought that money and fame made for a happier life, the research showed something different. It was good relationships that had a more positive impact on life. It’s not about having a big circle of friends or several relationships. It’s about having meaningful relationships. Quality over quantity.

In the words of Professor Robert Waldinger, the director of the study:

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

Robert Waldinger

Psychiatrist George Vaillant, one of the earlier researchers of the study, came to the same conclusion in his own words:

The key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.

George Vaillant

Research on the purpose of life

A study by the researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health found that when people have a high sense of purpose or direction in life, they tend to remain healthier in life.

The researchers tracked data from 2006 and 2010 from a national study of participants over 50 years old. Physical and psychological examinations of their health were conducted, including walking speed, grip test, and a questionnaire to measure their sense of purpose.

The results showed that the participants with a higher sense of purpose had a reduced risk of developing weaker grip and slower speed.

Deathbed regrets

One of my favorite articles online is called “Regrets of the Dying”, which covers the most frequently quoted regrets of people on their deathbed. It’s a fascinating story that uncovers what most people regret the most as they are near the end of their lives. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Notice how none of the deathbed regrets are “I wish I had bought a bigger TV”?

What matters in life and why

For anyone struggling to find what really matters in life, here are some clues.

1. Purpose in life

A sense of purpose gives us the “why” of our life. It is the reason why we do what we do. It is the reason for our actions, our work and our relationships. Our lives revolve around this purpose. It gives our life meaning – a meaning which matters in life.

However, do not panic if you struggle to find your purpose. We have all been in that place. I remember when I did, I asked myself three questions:

  • Why do I get up?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I not want?

These questions have helped me find my purpose in life. It helped me discover what really matters to me. Whenever you feel like you are losing track of your life and yourself, you can always go back to these questions. Just remember to be honest with yourself.

2. Good relationships

Relationships are important. The positive kind, of course. In a busy world like ours, we often think that we don’t have a lot of time to give to our family or friends.

Even worse, we take it all for granted and postpone it for later, while we prioritize our work.

However, your family, friends, and loved ones are part of what makes your life happier.

good relationships are important
Good relationships are a crucial part of a happy life.

I remember the happiest memories of my life revolve around spending time with my family and friends.

Good relationships really matter. You need to nurture these relationships with the attention, love, and care that they deserve.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Spend time with people who support and encourage you.
  • Replace the time you spend on your phone or TV with real people.
  • Do things with your loved ones to strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Reach out to old friends and relatives and connect with your colleagues.

Spend time with positive people and watch how it changes your life for the better.

3. Good health

Health is probably one of the most important things that we take for granted. We don’t eat healthily, we sleep poorly, and we don’t treasure our bodies. But health matters – both our physical health and mental health.

Be kind to yourself, your mind, and your body. A lot of people are not so lucky to have a healthy body, so keep it nourished and nurtured.

Here are some interesting articles filled with tips on how to focus on your health:

Always prioritize your health. Improve your lifestyle. Eat healthily and drink plenty of water. Get out and talk to people. Visit the doctor for regular check-ups. Treat your health as if it is crucial because it really is.

4. Love and accept yourself

Accepting and loving yourself matters. When you completely embrace yourself and nurture your well-being and growth, you’ll start to see the positive effect it has on your life. A positive view of yourself leads to a positive view of the world.

be yourself be fearless
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and accept yourself for who you are.

If you are unable to love yourself, you will be unable to love others too. There was a time in my life when I criticized everything I did and thought that my life fell apart because of how I am. I disliked myself. Not long after, I started distancing myself from people. It was after I learned how to love myself that I could love and care for others.

How did I do that?

  • I accepted my flaws and recognized my strengths.
  • I forgave myself when I made a mistake, but I also held myself accountable.
  • I spent time with those I loved and asked for help when I needed it.
  • I stayed positive as much as I could and let go of resentment.
  • I made healthier choices and tracked my growth and progress.

 In short, I started to love myself again, and so can you. Take time to discover your true self and embrace it.

Closing words

So, what really matters in life? A healthy balance of purpose, relationships, health, and love really matters. These continue to be the most precious elements of our lives.

Do you agree? Or do you think I missed something important? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Hugo
Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.


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