What Really Matters in the End?

“Don’t worry about the little stuff. None of it matters. Only love matters. If you remember this, that love is always present; it will be a good life” ~ Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

Although it may seem to be a fatalistic post title, it is meant with the utmost positivity and sincerity. It is one of the most basic and fundamental questions we can ask ourselves, “What really does matter in the end?” As it turns out, when we stop and reflect on this question, a lot of the things that we fuss about and spend our time doing day-to-day, are not the things that truly matter when we know our life is coming to an end. And the thing is, most of us never know when that end may be.

I was prompted to think about this after having a dream the other night. It was one of those dreams that I remembered more vividly when I woke up, but because I didn’t write it down, it’s now only very fuzzy. The bottom line is that in my dream I was facing death and was strangely at peace with it because of what I had in my life right now.

Some days we remember this feeling, and some days we all fall prey to the gremlins that eat away at our minds – the need for more  – more money, success, praise, awards, clothes, fame, etc. You get the picture and it may be one that you are also familiar with. I would be surprised if we all haven’t felt this way at times.

In this world we live in that is so ‘noisy’, especially online, and full of everyone trying to hustle and spread their wings to be seen, how do we stay grounded in what truly matters?

•  First, we have to figure out what does truly matter to us. What our values are and what is most important to us. For many of us, love and relationships would rise to the top.

•  When we look at what we have listed as our values and what’s most important to us, do they align with how we want to be remembered in this world? For instance, if you want to be remembered as a loving mother and spouse, and your value is love and relationships, then these will align as a guiding force.

•  What is the one simple thing that we can do today to remain intentional with what we have outlined above? I’m going to have to bring up this term I use very often and that is one of gratitude. If we are grateful for the things that we do have, we spend less time worrying about what we don’t have, and in turn, remain aware of how we are living our lives.

•  Another important piece is self-compassion because let’s face it, we are all human and we all fall victim to comparison, greed and frivolity. Rewarding ourselves with material things can be motivating and give us some enjoyment in the here and now. The tricky thing is when we are constantly doing that and we end up overspending, overindulging, etc. It may just be another queue to reevaluate our lives, think of what’s important, and maybe what needs to change.

Ultimately, what we may find is that what truly matters are the things we can’t buy or even see, such as love, time, meaning, kindness, and service to others. So on the days that it would seem that the most important things are our devices, money and things, let’s pause and think, “Is this really what matters in the end?”

Happy Easter to those who observe, and before I go, I thought it befitting to end with a poem today from Wild Geese by Mary Oliver via Brain Pickings.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Additional Resources

BJ Miller TED Talk – What Really Matters at the End of Life

Bonnie Ware – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

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