I ask myself this late at night, as I drift into sleep. When I feel the first-morning sunbeam falling on my eyelids, I repeat the question. Whenever I’m alone with my thoughts, here it is again. It is, I presume, what moves us conscious beings from one breath to another. What is the most important thing in life? In your life to be specific.
Have you answered it yet? What is the most important thing or things in your life?
Because of the way I see it, our answers are probably the same. Is it love? Or Family? Well, yes and no. The most important thing in life underpins everything else, and I’ve come to know many wise men who’ve spent their days happy and fulfilled, though alone. It’s definitely not money or status, so what is it?
I’ve thought long and hard, one mindful year after another, until I eventually came up with this. The following are the things I spend most of my time on, and the reasons why I spend it that way. They’ve brought me peace, love, and excitement, and made me grateful that I’m alive.
Hopefully, they are your answers too.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” – Mahatma Gandhi
A healthy man cannot taste what sickness feels like, so he cherishes what he has a little less than he should. Taught by cautionary tales, we repeat that well-being is vital for a good life, without ever truly realizing why and how.
Meanwhile, inspiring people like Stephen Hawking or Nik Vujicic teach us that the human mind knows no physical limitations. Seeing them and listening to their stories make me believe in my answer even more. Today, when somebody asks me what is the most important thing in life, I swiftly respond with mental health.
The world is full of both good and bad. It’s unpredictable, often unjust. I’ve known people who’ve treated their bodies as temples for their entire lives but ended up sick all the same. Conversely, I’ve known passionate hedonists and intemperate enjoyers of life who’ve died laughing, and of old age.
So I’ve realized an important thing – be gentle to your body, and the odds will be in your favor. But, let it breathe! The human body is a mystery that keeps unraveling, and there’s little that’s powerful enough to break it. Your mind needs continual nurturing though, so do everything to keep it healthy and sane.
With good health, everything is possible. See your body as a golden goose, treat it well and the repayment will be limitless.
2. Great Supporting System
Everybody needs somebody, be that a friend, a partner, or someone you’re related to. The people we choose are the perfect reflection of who we are but most importantly is who we’re becoming. My mentor always told me, if you want to be better, be with someone who is better than you and you’ll never stop learning.
So choose those who can help you reach the better version of yourself, who inspires you to chase your dreams, and who supports you when times are hard.
And, trust me, they will be. However powerful you think you are, there will be battles that you won’t be able to fight alone. Having someone by your side, someone who understands your vision and loves you enough to push you forward when all you want to do is go back to safety, that’s what makes you a winner.
Every adult decision, be it about quitting a bad habit, about taking a leap into entrepreneurship, or about changing yourself for the better, is easier to make and stick to if you have a support network to rely on. Knowing that there’ll be someone to catch you when you fall will make you a fearless person.
3. Making Someone’s Day Full of Sunshine Even When Yours is Not
I’ve recently read about a wonderful, though unsung psychological concept called the “helper’s high”. Apparently, it’s what the dreamers and the altruists consume to forget about the cultural horrors of our era, for the same reason that you and I eagerly drink our Saturday night’s wine.
The difference is, the dreamers and the altruists are not helpless and bitter. No, they are happy. It is because helping others and not expecting anything in return actually releases endorphins – and that’s a scientific fact. Also, it helps you feel more grateful for what you have, which is yet another kind of happy.
Bob Marley was a big consumer of the helper’s high too (among other things), and that made him one of the most beautiful human beings ever to walk this planet of ours.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley
So, when somebody asks you what is the most important thing in life, answer them that they are. If you don’t have anything else to give them, give them a smile. Be selfless and kind, and you’ll be happy and fulfilled. The helper’s high improves mental and physical health, the research found, so it’s twice as important.
4. Money Should Not be a Priority
Money’s just paper. Even in its own class, money’s not the most valuable thing. A book is more important than it, and so is your birth certificate.
There’s more value in an old Rolling Stones ticket from 1969 than in a five-dollar bill. I have a used serviette that helps me travel back in time, the way money never could.
So why do we give it so much power? Sure, material wealth reflects status and success, and sure, money can buy you a lifetime of travels, a plateful of saffron, and a whole lot of other pleasures that you only dare to imagine.
But, when common folk says that money can’t buy you happiness, be wise and listen.
To my knowledge and experience, there isn’t a single example of money-drawing people together. I’ve seen more relationships crumble and families fall apart from chasing wealth than from living in poverty. They earn and earn, and before they know it, their bank accounts are full, but their lives are empty.
“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” – Plato
In case you’re already on your way to success, stop to reconsider what’s at the end of the road. Don’t do it for the money. It’s the experience that makes you rich, the overcoming of obstacles and trials, so make sure that your priorities go beyond the material.
As one book nerd to another (in my wildest fantasies, all people are big literature buffs, and so are you), I can proudly say that this is the one thing that I’ve done 100% right.
At my worst, I’ve struggled with panic attacks and depression, but I didn’t like asking anyone for help. So, I read and I learned.
“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B King
I’ve lost so much of myself during the years, but my erudition remained intact. In more ways than I’ll ever realize, literature helped me survive.
While this romantic side of me believes that books hold the key to the meaning of life, the more realistic me understands that education is both an emotional and practical investment. Continual learning is how we build our human capital, the only thing that makes us professionally unique and irreplaceable.
Our human capital worth transcends formal education and professional development, of course. It is a sum of everything you’ve read, experienced, accomplished, and learned, a total of your talents and skills. The more you expand it, the more invaluable you become.
6. Know Who You Are
What is the most important thing in life is the question that makes philosophers of us all, if philosophy can be reduced to the tireless pursuit of meaning and purpose (and it can). Mandy Hale is a philosopher too, though her books mostly center around sassy ladies and beautiful uncertainties of women’s lives.
Though written in girly fonts, her words remind us that there’s truly nothing as important as knowing who we are. An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation: you find it, she claims. People are naturally drawn like magnets to those who know who they are and cannot be shaken.
In my experience, every battle begins on the inside. Whether we fight with low self-esteem, depression, or fear of the unknown, getting to know the essence that is our soul is the most powerful weapon we can acquire. It consists of both strengths and weaknesses, and it’s what makes us unrepeatable beautiful.
Alex Elle, another writing goddess, said:
You have to know that you are good enough and worth it. Once you master the belief in yourself no one can steal that love from you.
There’s something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle life throws your way, so don’t settle until you’ve found it.
7. Don’t Be a Victim BUT Instead be a Hero in Your Life
Psychologically speaking, playing the role of victim is a sign of repressed anger. Practically speaking, feeling victimized doesn’t get you very far in life (unless, of course, you’re Taylor Swift). Coping with your negative power by blaming others is not in any way useful, and it certainly isn’t constructive.
I’m not a skeptical person myself, but I’ve learned that the only things we can expect from other people are the things that we choose to give them. This doesn’t mean that we are mercantile beings, nor that human relationships lack warmth and selflessness. It only means that we all reap what we saw.
Instead of blaming others for your own failures, take responsibility for your actions. This is called growing from mistakes, and it’s a quality of heroes, not victims.
Always be courageous enough to try, and brave enough to accept that you’ve failed. It has nothing to do with other people, so carry your own weight.
Sorry to be harsh but I hope you’ll get what I’m trying to pass down to you, a lesson that I learned and cherished because it was what saved me from drowning deeper into darkness.
8. Don’t Give Up
“A winner is just a loser who tried on more time.” – George M. Moore, Jr.
If you keep asking yourself what is the most important thing in life, the answer will eventually reveal itself. Then, and only then, you’ll be able to create a vision for your life, and to find a purpose of your existence.
Keep pursuing it for the rest of your days, one step at the time. This is your happiness, so never give up.
Chasing dreams is easier said than done, I know. Not once have I been tempted to let it all go and retreat back to my little comfort zone, where everything’s snuggly and safe.
Not once have I been discouraged by failures, and thought about moving on to the next best thing.
But, the next best thing wasn’t my dream.
Whatever you do, practice patience, because patience teaches determination. Determination brings consistency to your work, and consistency is key to success.
If you fail to resist the aching temptation to give up, you’ll miss out not only on some amazing opportunities, but you’ll also miss out on your true self.
9. Always Make Time for Gratitude
Once you’ve discovered the hero within you and did your best to reach the unreachable, you’ll finally learn to appreciate what you already have.
The harder you work on your health and relationships, your altruism and human capital, the prouder and more grateful you’ll be.
When you learn to appreciate what you have, you’ll always have more.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
Doesn’t that answer your question? Isn’t that a solution to the greatest existential challenge of all? The next time somebody asks you what is the most important thing in life, what will you say?
I’d say, the most important thing in your life is you.
A healthy, loved, happy, spiritually rich, well-read, self-sufficient, fearless, determined you.
Have that version of yourself as your life’s vision, and never stop chasing it.
What is the most important thing in life?
With plenty of hard work and some luck, the next time somebody asks you what is the most important thing in life, you’ll already be the person of your dreams.
I’m looking forward to meeting you then – hopefully, you’ll teach me a couple of life tricks of your own.