Things That Matter


“Men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live.”    —Margaret Fuller

Many things in life compete for one’s attention and time.  There rarely seems to be enough time in a day to address everything tugging at your life.   At work, at school or at home it seems that nobody ever attains that elusive state of existence we call being, “caught up.”  The fact is it’s never possible to be caught up.  As soon as you complete one “to do” list, you’ll find that another list has emerged to take its place.  Life in America is busy, in many instances even for retirees.

With all of the hustle and bustle, it’s quite easy to allow each day to blend in with the next.  The end result is we get caught up in routines that often result in our missing out on the things that really matter in our lives.  If you’ve seen Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day,” you’ll get the picture.  Each day becomes a replay of the previous one, like being caught in an endless circle of the mundane.

The end product of such routines is missed events, missed occasions and missed opportunities.  Think about those things you most regret having missed out on in your life.  It might be a birthday, anniversary, wedding, baptism, funeral, recital, ball game, a move to a new location or job, or something entirely different.  Each of us has a list of personal regrets weighing on our respective souls. Sometimes the weight becomes too much to bear.

As a management consultant, one of my services entails helping people make the most of their time and other resources.  In order to do this, I recommend a reflective exercise called “imagine.”  It goes like this.  Imagine that today you learned you have three months to live.  Make a list of the things you’d like to do with your remaining time?

Many people playfully compile something called a bucket list—a list of things they’d like to do before they die (kick the bucket).  It usually includes a lot of exciting activities, like skydiving, climbing Mount Everest, traveling in outer space and other great adventures.  However, people who partake in the “imagine” exercise tend to be more serious in compiling their lists.

Common answers to the “imagine” exercise include spending more time with one’s family and loved ones, apologizing to someone you’ve offended, helping someone in need and spending more time in prayer and spiritual pursuits. “Working more” rarely appears on such lists! Doing the “imagine” exercise produces a list of the things that really matter in one’s life.

It’s useful for anyone to develop a personal list of the things that matter.  Life is short and our time and other resources are limited.  Knowing what matters in your life will help you be a good steward of your resources.

Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  I urge you to take time to reflect on what truly matters in your life and work heartily at being a good steward with the time and other resources you dedicate to the things that matter.  Concurrently, work earnestly to eliminate as many as possible of the distracting things that don’t really matter.

As the popular Johnny Mercer song goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,
and latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between.  Just for grins, here’s a link to the original Johnny Mercer recording.

Wikipedia: H is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Fr. Doug on June 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Yes, indeed! There are those of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush, the urgency, and the imperative. Unfortunately, many folks don’t know how to slow down and smell the coffee. Usually it takes a great deal of arm twisting or a pastoral crisis, before we cast aside the tunnel-vision blinders. Only when our lives come to a screeching halt will we finally take the time to reflect and ‘imagine’.

    In the Spring 2012 volume of Leadership Journal page 61, Australian hospice nurse, Bonnie Ware records the top 5 regrets of the dying:

    1. I wish I 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’d stayed in touch with my friends.
    5. I wish I’d let myself be happier.

    I think St. Paul had it right: ‘for freedom Christ has set us free’.


  2. Posted by Gayron Ferguson on June 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I’m not as wealthy as I could have been. Not in cash anyway. BUT, I did take time to be with my boys while they were growing up and make memories that money will not buy. Now I’m making even more memories with my grandkids. As you get old, you realize that things and money really isn’t THAT important. Yes you want enough to have a decent retirement but you really don’t need to drive a lexus. You need the love of your family. You need the closeness that only time will give you. Time with family not work.


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