In harmony with nature

Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.48.2

Setting long-term goals

Taking a long-term view on the direction we want our lives to move in, helps guide us to identify, and ultimately achieve, our long-term goals. It also allows us to test whether our short term goals (connected to our list of the things that matter) are really the right ones.

Asking the big questions like what gives my life meaning or what would make my life worthwhile is a valuable exercise, but it’s not easy. That’s because the considerations are so deeply tied into what society is telling us should be our goals. It’s also complicated by philosophical theories and religious and family values.

For these reasons it can be more restrictive and confusing than liberating.

Another way of looking at this is to identify what we place a high value on. These are the things that bring joy and happiness to our lives, and hopefully through us, to the lives of those we care about. When these are closely linked to our short-term goals, we can be confident that we are making the right daily decisions.

Let me share with you some of my list of things that have a high value so you know where I’m coming from.

What I value above all else

I know I’m making the right choices when:

  1. my body is flexible and my mind is calm
  2. I’m able to spend time with family and friends
  3. my work gives me pleasure
  4. I can afford to be generous with time and money
  5. I have free time to pursue my personal interests

I could also express this as being free, self-sufficient and liberated.

Of course, just making a list doesn’t make it happen. There are plans to be made, obstacles to be identified and overcome and tasks to be completed. What it gives us though are some worthwhile long-term goals, and the ability to know when we are on track to reach them. It also lets us know when we are off-track.

The consequences of actions

One more point needs to be made. When we make decisions and take actions (or refrain from taking actions) based on greed or anger or fear, we are sure to attract negative reactions. The same is true for setting goals.

There is bound to be a degree of selfishness (greed) in our long-term goals. We need to recognise this and accept that all our decisions and actions have consequences. We therefore need to minimise the negative effects our decisions will have on ourselves and others. We can do this by using what we achieve,  (for example time and money) wisely, and in ways that do not harm others. With making decisions comes responsibility.

What’s next

Now it’s your turn. Create a list of what you value the most. Work on the list and revise it over the next few days. Finally match your list to the things that matter.

Remember to review your list often


Focus on what matters

It’s a big mistake to focus  our attention and use valuable energy on things that don’t really matter to us, and on things that are outside of our control.

There are many distractions and conflicting pressures on our time, so we need to identify the things that really matter. These are the things which are connected to our life’s purpose and the achieving of our life goals, so we need to focus on these before all else.

Make a list

Creating a list of things that matter and referring to the list often, will help guide us in making  wise choices about what to  get involved in and when to say no. For example, some of the things on my list of things that matter are:

  • daily reflection and meditation
  • regular exercise
  • quality family time
  • providing valuable and timely support for co-workers
  • maintaining contact with friends

Guiding principles

To  strengthen our decision-making skills, we can then go a little further and add some guiding principles to the items on our list of what matters. For example; what is the best time of day and how much time should I spend on reflection and meditation, what types of exercises are more physically beneficial and fit best into my busy routine, what types of family activities would bring the most joy and cohesion, and what types of support would provide the most benefit.

Review often

The items on the list should be looked at and updated frequently so that they take into account our changing circumstances. Check them, revise them, change them, create new ones. In this way we can re-ignite our passion for our chosen path and for the things we have chosen to focus on whenever we choose to.

So  when someone asks you to get involved in things that aren’t on your list, the choice is easy. Gently but insistently say no.

Over to you

What are the things that matter to you?

Start making your list and keep it somewhere close so you can review it often.

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