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Concentrate first on the important things in life

Grant Clowers
Special to the Nevada Appeal

When the Titanic left Southampton, England, on April 14, 1912 it got many things right. The food was fabulous. The orchestra was grand. The service was impeccable. The surroundings were luxurious. There was much to make it a wonderful trip.

The only things missing were the lifeboats. The owners had taken care of everything except the most important thing: how to keep the passengers safe.

That reminds me of how we tend to live. We do much. We accomplish many things.

We stay busy and productive. And it is very likely that the things we do are worth doing. But we may be spending so much time being busy and productive that we forget to do what is most important to us.

The greatest tragedy is to live our lives without living them fully, without doing what is most in line without our deepest values.

There is a famous saying: “No one says on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” It is true that being in the office may be an important thing, even a necessary thing, but is it always the most important thing? If not, what is most important?

Here is where I need to stop giving advice. I have clues about what is important to me, about what I need to do to have a more meaningful, fulfilling life, but you are the expert on what is most valuable to you. No one knows you like you.

There is a growing understanding in psychology that simply following your normal thoughts and feelings will not necessarily lead to happiness. We need to also be aware of our values, and focus on acting them out on a day to day basis to be truly happy.

A survey of Americans ranked their priorities in life. They were: 1. Family life; 2. Spiritual life; 3. Health; 4. Finances; 5. Job; 6. Romantic life; 7. Leisure time; 8. Home.

The survey also showed that people did not spend as much time and energy on their highest priorities as they would like. So what do we need to do to live a more meaningful life? How can we overcome the natural tendency to act out our habits and feelings instead of what is most meaningful to us?

We need to realize that doing what is meaningful may not come naturally. It will take work and practice to move toward a more valued way of living. What can we do to help ourselves toward a more meaningful life?

The first step is reflecting and coming up with a list of what is important to you. Reflection may feel like a luxury in this fast-paced life, but the costs of living mindlessly are truly tragic. We need to think about our lives and have a reflective way to discover what our values and priorities are.

The next step is turning those values and priorities into action. A value that is not enacted is just a good idea. Good ideas are fine, but only doing something different leads to more fulfilling results. Think about what is important to you every day and plan a way to act it out. Even if you can’t do it well try to do it anyway. I often tell my clients that if something is worth doing it is worth doing badly. What I mean by that is that if something is important don’t wait until you are great at it to do it.

The last step is to do what is important and be completely present to the experience. It is one thing to do something and it is quite a different thing to do it with all your attention. Our values are the things that give our life a sense of purpose and meaning. It’s worth taking the time to do those things and to do them with all your heart.

– Grant Clowers is a psychotherapist with Sierra Psychiatric Wellness Associates in Carson City.