I don’t think there is one answer to this question. We as humans have lives and experiences that have varied and given us different perspectives. For those of us who have experienced a bit more in life, we realize that what matters most in life can change as we grow and mature. This is because our view changes as we encounter more and more of this thing we call life. Those views are influenced by the challenges we encounter. If one has never experienced a loss of one kind or another, then they will have no idea what it is to lose that “item” and they may take for granted, the fact that they have that thing.
Some of us are born into more fortunate circumstances than others, if you have always had certain things, then you have no idea of how important they are. That is until you lose them. I have often heard people express annoyance with their parents - their parent is too demanding or distant or didn’t give them enough. Having lost my mother when I was three, I envy these folks and the problems they feel they have, because I lost my mother so early. Of course, the relationship I might have had with her is idealized and the relationship I have had with my father has been less than perfect in comparison, but to have some relationship is better than having none.
Love seems to be something we search for in life, first from our parents and then from others as we grow. When a person does not feel loved, it leaves a huge hole in their lives, a void they search to fill, many times settling for less than they deserve. Feeling loved is very important for most people. All too often, though, conditions are placed on whether another person will love us. Unconditional love is what we seek and don’t always find. In that search, we may end up finding religion. For many this can matter most in life and they will push others to find and experience what they have found there. It can differ greatly from culture to culture and mean very different things to each individual, and for some, it means little or nothing.
Health can mean a great deal in life, if a person has suffered illness throughout their lives, to find or become healthy can be extremely important. To those who have never experienced ill health can be unaware of what a gift they have. If you have never lived with pain or struggled to breathe, it is difficult to understand what it is to endure these things, or what a joy it can be to be free of the pain or struggle. Health can also be related to one’s mental well-being. To those who deal with mental illness, finding a way to effectively cope with their illness can be elusive and matter a great deal.
For some, money is seen as a cure-all. If they only had more, could earn more, or win some, then their lives would improve, and this is what they see as mattering most in life. For those who have money and can buy or amass things, there often never seems to be enough to satisfy them and their desires. If they stop and look around, they might discover that many people have found pleasure in life without great sums of money.
Happiness, is another intangible that people often seek throughout life. They go through life doing things that they have been told and have come to believe will make them happy, and yet they still are not happy. They got an education, they found a profession, they may have found a spouse and had children, and yet find themselves unhappy, depressed, and wanting something else from life. Others have done the same and seem to have found happiness. What is the difference? What matters most in life seems to be illusive and difficult to define.
I have asked myself this question throughout my life, and what matters most in life has varied dependant upon my situation and circumstances at the time. At times, love or the lack of it has seemed most important. When my health has been at issue, that took center stage. When I lacked a job or was unhappy in a job, I saw that as the most important thing in life. Money has, at times, seemed to be an issue of great importance. In reflecting on those times when I have been the happiest, my happiness hasn’t had much to do with money or many of the things others might list.
I have had A-1 credit and still been miserable, I have known I was loved, and felt very alone, I have had a job I loved, yet missed appreciating that. I have had terrific health and taken it for granted. So what is it that is most important in life?
Currently, I suspect it is how a person feels. How they see their situation. If a person can find the positives in their lives, they can “feel” much better about many things. We can choose how we will look at things and how we will deal with what life throws at us. We can opt to be negative and “see” only what we can’t do, or we can turn things upside down and look at what we can still do. We can not control everything in life, but we can control how we view a situation and how much power we will give it; we can chose how we will respond.
We may not like the choices life hands us, but realizing that we can choose can be empowering. Taking control of a situation rather then letting it control us. When we feel we have control, we often see things in a more positive light. This can require changing what you have done in the past; you may have to think outside the box so to speak, but it can be done. Examine what is important in your life and what you don’t like, what you would change and how you would change it. Appreciate those things you do have, or more importantly, the people who have impacted your life and made it better. Letting others know how they make your life better helps both of you. You realize that you are far from alone in this world, and they can see that their efforts are not useless.
So just maybe the thing that matters most in life is how we choose to “feel” about ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in. We can choose to be negative, to blame others and feel victimized, or we can choose to focus on what is positive, take control, and look at our options while taking action where we can effect a change.
And for the record, you won’t have much success in trying to change others, but you can change yourself, even though that often requires lots of effort. When you are happier with yourself, then you can be happier with life.