I recently heard a story about New England quarterback Tom Brady that illustrates the importance of knowing what matters most and pursuing it. By 2005, 27-year-old Tom Brady had already won three Super Bowls. Brady was making millions of dollars. He was dating a model. He had it all. Or so you might think.
That year 60 Minutues correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed Brady. Kroft asked him what he made of his success. This was Brady’s stunning reply:
BRADY: Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it’s gotta be more than this. I mean this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be. I mean I’ve done it. I’m 27. And what else is there for me?
KROFT: What’s the answer?
BRADY: I wish I knew. I wish I knew.
The Importance of What Matters Most
Despite all his apparent success, Brady longed for something else. He hadn’t figured out what mattered most to him. Perhaps we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Some reading this post may still be in that position.
Consequences of not knowing what matters most to you include:
- Stretching yourself thin between competing priorities
- Seeking fulfillment in things that never satisfy
- Growing “smaller” as you settle for lesser goods
Having a grasp of what matters most, on the other hand, provides:
- Purpose and direction as your priorities are clear
- Satisfaction in pursuing goods worth striving for
- Growing “bigger” as you aim for something beyond yourself
How to Know What Matters Most
Knowing what matters most is critical, for the pursuit of anything less will never satisfy, as Brady’s longing in the midst of so much success demonstrates.
Here are two ways to help figure out what matters most:
1. Consider Happiness that Endures
Some things make us happy in the moment, but their luster fades with time. Possessions—like a new phone or a new car—are like that. Some experiences are that way, too—even experiences as profound as winning multiple Super Bowls.
Other things make us happy in a more enduring sense. Virtue is this way: habitually acting rightly is a source of deep contentment. Positive relationships are this way: loving another and being loved in return is satisfying even when the other is absent. Faith is this way as well, since faith is also fundamentally a relationship: one with God.
If you consider what in your life makes you happy in the moment but fades with time and contrast that with what makes you happy in an enduring way, you can begin to see a pattern emerge around those things that are most important to you. As an example, you may perceive that spending money on others rather than on yourself actually makes you happier in the enduring sense.
2. Consider Your Death
As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite method for figuring out what matters most is to consider what, at the time of your death, you will wish you had lived for. That is a very powerful exercise—one worth doing annually if not more regularly. I do it often and invite you to try it as well.
To make it super simple to do that exercise yourself, I’ve put together a half-page outline of how to do it, which you can get here:
The 20th Century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “There comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’”
The masterpieces of Shakespeare and Beethoven don’t satisfy. Super Bowl victories and supermodel girlfriends don’t satisfy.
If that is true, then having more time and money—focuses of this blog—certainly won’t satisfy either. But if you know what matters most and are in pursuit of it, everything changes. For then, things that can never satisfy can be put powerfully at the service of that which does.
Figure out what matters most. Do it as soon as possible. Nothing could be of greater importance.
Question: How, in your life, have you gotten clearer on what matters most to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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