What really matters.

Recently a journalist asked me an opinion for the article she was writing. The question at first seemed easy: What makes a person successful? I opted for the textbook answers on motivation, behaviour, self-actualisation and needs. But then I started to wonder: What will really matter in determining success? I turned to the significant thoughts formulated in Michael Josephson’s “WHAT WILL MATTER”. Josephson took me on a journey to once again reformulate my own consciousness of what would be important, significant or even successful. I inserted Josephson’s significant view at the end of this blog.

Daily we hear about targets and outcomes that should be reached. We set budgets and measure performance in percentages. Some of these outcomes, percentages, deadlines and budgets aim to measure us as people. But these numbers tell us little about the goodwill, potential, passion and compassion of the person. Are we “budgeting” for what really matters? Or measure ourselves with the appropriate yardstick? Against which measurements are we measuring those around us? I wonder what the “outcome” will be if we start to budget for more meaning, compassion or love among persons. How would we measure the outcomes of love, compassion, human potential and being in service of each other? The instrument to measure meaning and purpose might differ or does not yet exist. How would we measure the worth of each day we lived?

Instead of focussing on outcome and deadline demands, focus should rather turn to the relationships we have with ourselves and others. The process of constructing meaning in our interactions with each other. In contrast with instant result driven outcomes, the process-centred approach would naturally result in innovative and meaningful growth. These outcomes and results might be surprising, but a person-centred focus would rather keep at heart the assets, capacities, talents, uniqueness, capabilities, self-determination, creativity and quality of relationships discovered within the process. The results of seeking opportunities to celebrate and construct meaning, might be astonishing – Success.

The process of meaning making is closely related to the flourishing potential of human beings. In creating a flourishing environment for each other, demands are made on the values of respect, individualisation, self-determination and unconditional positive regard for each other. Success would thus then also be closely related to empathy, human potential and creative construction of productive experiences. As members of this life journey we should become skilled relationship builders and advocates for human potential and dignity. The constructors of meaningful experiences; mindful of our abilities and potential to create significance, meaning and purpose.

Meaning, purpose and significance does not just “happen” or is discovered; it is continuously constructed within each moment of life. Tentatively stated; in this context “success” would then be the thriving potential to significantly construct meaning and purpose in life. The potential locked up in all human beings, waiting to flourish.

We should be willing to co-explore the “realities” and significance of the persons sharing the journey of life with us. Mindful of our own potential to construct a meaningful relationship with the inner self. The extent and origins of our potential as human beings begs to be explored to the fullest. Awareness should be created that we do have the ability to choose to create meaningful experiences from any given moment. Being conscious that life is a meaning making process, that purpose is constructed moment by moment through our experiences and interactions with ourselves and others. I might not have a clear answer on what “success” might be, but maybe asking more productive questions about significance meaning and purpose could bring us closer to the answer.


by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So, what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built,

not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,

but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

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