What Matters Most? (Part 1)

Summary: “Meaning and relationships matter most.”

Several years ago I was invited to speak to a group of young leaders. The folks asking me to speak were tactful about it, but basically they said (politely), “You are an old leader…we want you to come and speak to our young leaders about what matters most in life.” I thought it was a very interesting topic…I said, “I’m in!”

For years, I have recognized the value of exploring different perspectives when developing responses to such questions. So, I had fun looking at this question from a business/leadership point of view. Then I explored the viewpoint of various mental health experts. Then I checked out the Harvard Grant Study and Glueck Studies that tracked (and is still tracking) a group of Harvard students and another group of disadvantaged inner-city Boston youths for over 70 years. I checked out Gail Sheehy’s books and writings on life passages. Then I looked at Richard Leider’s research on the aging population (in general, people 70+ year-olds); then Bronnie Ware’s work related to people with terminal illnesses; and finally Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero’s journey (basically the collective wisdom of about 100 billion people who have passed through this world and left behind life lessons through mythologies, fairy tales, religions, and various other forms of artistic expression). So, that pretty much covers most of the stages of life where people have the cognitive prowess to contemplate such a question…and then some.

To make a long story short, many, many things matter in life. However, two things kept popping up over and over as I explored all these viewpoints: meaning and relationships.

In general, meaning is about being involved with something that is bigger than you. Activity that goes well beyond any personal benefit you might derive from the activity. I’ve mentioned it several times before on this blog, but one of the best resources to help you deepen your understanding of this concept is a video titled Finding Joe by Patrick Tayaka Solomon.

The importance of relationships came up in pretty much every place I looked. According to George Vaillant, who was involved in the Grant/Glueck studies for over 30 years, “Success in relationships was very highly correlated with both economic success and strong mental and physical health. In short, it was a history of warm intimate relationships—and the ability to foster them in maturity—that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.” (Unfortunately, as a sign of the times, no women were included in the studies).

So, it seems that focusing on meaning and relationships matters most…among the many things that matter most. Here are more postings on this topic:

What Matters Most? – Part 2

What Matters Most? – Part 3

What Matters Most? – Part 4

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

6 thoughts on “What Matters Most? (Part 1)

  1. Reply
    Murphy Terri - October 3, 2017

    This posting is loaded with brilliant resources for exploring this subject. Thank you. More to study for sure

    1. Reply
      Chris - October 3, 2017

      Thanks Terri…it has always been good to have a relationships with you. You have always been so supportive of my work. I appreciate it! Say hello to “you know who.”

  2. Reply
    Tricia Kilgore - October 3, 2017

    And another study that correlates with this is an 80 year long study beginning 1938 in Boston area by Harvard on the secret to a happy life led most recently Robert Waldinger- results? – good relationships most predictive of happiness and isolation actually kills. Conflict bad/ warm relationships good for body and brain- actually protective. Many of us sacrifice our time toward relationships doing things we think will provide material things for those we love/ what they need is us…,,,,

    1. Reply
      Chris - October 3, 2017

      Agree, the importance of developing and nurturing good relationships came up everywhere I looked when I was exploring this “What matters most?” question.

  3. Reply
    Barbara Hemphill - October 3, 2017

    Just had a conversation this morning with a colleague about our concern that many young people today are not developing deep relationships primarily because of their obsession with technology. Don’t get me wrong — I love technology because it enables us to do what you and I are doing right now, but in too many instances it seems to take young (and old!) people away from focusing on meaning and relationships.

    1. Reply
      Chris - October 3, 2017

      Yes, I find it odd that there is a commercial on TV now about an app you can use to turn off everyone’s phone at the dinner table (and for some reason the mom is in charge of it). I too love certain aspects of technology and what it can help me accomplish. However, years ago a book Megatrends by John Nasibitt predicted that we would struggle with the balance between “high-tech” and “high-touch” (high touch – representing human factors and relationships). Seems as if Nasibitt was quite right. I know in my case, I sort of overdid technology at first and now I am backing off trying to find the right balance. In general, my life has become more about what I can eliminate, rather than what I can add (I am living a version of the quote…perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away…Antoine Saint Exupery). For example, Robin and I gave up all cable news on November 9th, 2016 (after absolutely binging on it for months during the election) and our lives are better off without it. We now use that time most every day to sit and talk over a glass of wine for a few hours. We still get plenty of information from sources other than the “talking heads.” I guess based on my experience, my only debate with you is the use of the phrase “young people.” This is also happening to old people (I guess in our case, any relationship skills we might have possessed are atrophying). My guess is this is an issue that young people, old people, and all in between need to think about. Thanks for your comments and friendship.

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