Dr Peggy Marshall
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What Matters Most

What Matters Most

“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
-William James

Reflections on Gratitude   

Dr. Peggy MarshallNovember is a typically a time that people reflect upon all of the gifts in their lives.  This reflection can take various forms.  Some people keep gratitude journals, others engage family members in expressing daily gratitude at meals, while others look for opportunities to express gratitude in the moment.  Shawn Achor  in “The Happiness Advantage” reports that “consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.”  In fact, he shared that researchers who trained volunteers to focus on gratefulness found increases in optimism, social connections, happiness, better sleep patterns and even decreases in headaches in just a few short weeks.

Connecting Gratefulness to a Focus on What Matters Most

How often do we connect our gratefulness to what matters most in our lives?
Gratefulness can be that activity that allows us to align being thankful with what matters most. Yet, the demands of daily life can often take our focus away from what matters most.  How do you know whether you are focusing on what matters most?  I often use a simple technique that can be found in the book “True North” by Bill George.  Divide a paper into four sections or buckets; personal life; family life; friendships and community; and professional life.  In each bucket you assign a percentage of time that you are spending in that bucket.  Then you assign the percentage of time that you would like to spend in each bucket.  The difference in the numbers represents what is versus what you would like to be.  The goal here would be to make choices that align more with what you would like to be in your life-which is what matters most to you!

Gaining Perspective on Purpose

In addition to identifying where you are spending your time, you might want to connect where you are investing your time with your purpose.  It is truly when you align your activities with your purpose that deeper feelings of satisfaction and contentment emerge.  Jim Loehr  in “The Power of Story” captures the essence of identifying one’s life mission/purpose.  He suggests that your purpose should continually renew your spirit; gets you going everyday; provides an indomitable force towards action; and grounds you in your quiet moments.  The essential question that we are called to answer about our mission/purpose is that of legacy.  What is it that we want to be known for?  What do we want to leave behind as a testament to a life well lived.  As a graduate of Antioch University, I often reflect on our mission-a quote from Horace Mann “Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Mankind.”  What quotes inspire you into deeper connection with your purpose?

Why Shift Your Focus to What Matters Most

When we get caught up in the day-to-day activities of our world, we can get lost in activity and lose focus on our dreams, goals, hearts desires and ultimately our purpose.  We can even let go of what feeds our spirit in order to meet these demands of living. We end up feeling disappointed, conflicted, drained of energy and devoid of true satisfaction.  Often activity for activity’s sake can take us away from our mission/purpose instead of into it.  Dan Baker  in “What Happy People Know” contends that our sense of purpose tells us why we are here on earth and is one of the 12 ingredients of happiness.  Without this identification and reflection on purpose, we could find ourselves much like a boat in the ocean tossed from side-to-side without direction.

Gratefulness and purpose are interconnected resulting in expanded meaning, deepened satisfaction and joyfulness.  During this time of reflection on gratitude, don’t forget to explore ways that you can deepen your connection to mission and purpose.

To Your Success!
Dr. Peggy

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