I read an anonymous response to a question on quora.com which made me begin to wonder what really matters most in life. The question was: “How does it feel to be a billionaire and be broke?” The responder is or was a billionaire who had lost all his wealth. He had to stake his personal wealth to cover for any business losses and the banks eventually took all that he had to cover those losses.
I have seen and read loads of research about real-life experiences which indicate that many things are overrated or overvalued; chief among them is money.
What matters most in life? Is it money, fame, success, achievements? What is the one thing it comes down to? This naturally would vary from one person to another but, having studied people and seen how preferences have changed over time, certain inferences can be drawn as to what matters most in life. I also consider life a journey and realize that for the different stages and aspects of life we have variations of what matters the most.
I am an entrepreneur so I will start with business. What matters most in business? Is it being a cool brand like Apple or having a near-monopoly like Microsoft? Or is it being innovative like Tesla or being a Fortune 500 company? Is it mind-blowing revenues or having a truly global business? If these are the things that matter most, why then would people leave senior roles in large and wealthy organisations and join the Red Cross?
I realise the one thing that counts the most in business is integrity. Now integrity here is two-sided. One is integrity with self. In running this business, have you stayed true to your ideals? Are you in total alignment with the person you see in the mirror?
The other sphere of integrity is with your customers, your staff, your competition, government, and other stakeholders. When we peel the layers of the market share, earnings per share, or shareholders’ value, integrity is the one thing that counts the most that should drive you in business.
In marriage, what is the one thing that really matters? Is it love, is it compatibility, temperaments, values, fidelity, upbringing, or environment? I have seen couples profess to love each other but end up tearing apart each other and going through cycles of emotional and physical abuse.
The one thing, based on the results of several studies, that matters most in a marriage is TRUST. It is hard to build once broken, it affects the makeup of a marriage the most. The one thing that determines how long or how well a marriage performs isn’t love, money, or a sense of responsibility to each other. It is trust.
In life in general, what is the one thing that matters most? Life for most isn’t one’s state of existence, like water that exists in three states. It is fluid and as such at different times, different things matter. Studies show that among young people, they rate money and fame as what matters the most in life. 90% in old age have always and consistently changed their position and assumption.
So what should matter in life in our first phase as adults? It isn’t education; some miss out on education completely. It isn’t upbringing as we have seen people travel from the bottom to the top (and others from the top to the bottom) of societal ladders. It is ambition.
Ambition is what counts the most for a young adult. Being ambitious sometimes is thought of in the negative. However, it simply means to aspire for something with passion and zeal. Ambition doesn’t mean you want too many things, it just means you want something enough to commit to getting it. Ambition should drive this stage of life because it determines how well you can live your dream of being whatever it is you want to be. Without ambition at this stage, you merely would eke out a living and make do with whatever life throws at you.
In the second phase of your adult life, say beyond 60 till old age, ambition can become downplayed considering that if you have allowed ambition drive you, you should be living the life you want to. Many senior citizens at this stage express regrets for not trying hard enough, for not giving life their best shot, for not following their dreams and inner convictions, or spending more time with their family. Some realise perhaps they paid too high a price for the other successes they achieved. Others think maybe they should have traveled more or spent more time living rather than just working.
When one zeros in on what counts the most at this stage of life, it is contentment. It is being contented with self, environment, family, and legacies. You may have wanted to do more but could not. That should not take away your joy, peace, and happiness and make you go down to the grave in sorrow. It is being contented and being at peace that counts the most at this stage of life.
What matters most at work? Is it diligence, more qualifications, taking up more responsibilities or politicking? All of these matter but building quality relationships matter the most. The relationships you build serve you while on the job and even when you leave the unit or the company. Doing all that is required of a job matters a lot, but building quality relationships matters more.
I will end this article with a quote from Mark Twain. “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heart burnings and callings to accounts. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
When I look at life through the lens of work, marriage, adulthood and old age, I realise the one thing that matters the most is happiness and that isn’t something that falls in our laps easily. It is a decision, it is a pursuit and it is a daily commitment.
Be happy, you deserve it.
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