Do What Matters

It’s hard, from within the storm of every day life, to see things with real perspective, to know what’s important and what’s simply pressing on our consciousness right now, demanding attention.

We have people emailing us for information and requesting action, we have phone calls and visitors and a long to-do list and a million chores and errands to run and all of the slings and arrows of our daily reality … and yet, what is important?

Ask yourself this: if you suddenly found out you only had 6 months to live (for whatever reason), would the thing in front of you matter to you?

Would those 20 emails waiting for a response matter? Would the paperwork waiting to be processed matter? Would the work you’re doing matter? Would the meetings you’re supposed to have matter? Would a big car and nice house and high-paying job and cool computer and mobile device and nice shoes and clothes matter?

I’m not saying they wouldn’t matter … but it’s important to ask yourself if they would.

What would matter to you?

For many of us, it’s the loved ones in our lives. If we don’t have loved ones … maybe it’s time we started figuring out why, and addressing that. Maybe we haven’t made time for others, for getting out and meeting others and helping others and being compassionate and passionate about others. Maybe we have shut ourselves in somehow. Or maybe we do have loved ones in our lives, but we don’t seem to have the time we want to spend with them.

When was the last time you told your loved ones you loved them? Spent good quality time with them, being in the moment?

For many of us, doing work that matters … would matter. That might mean helping others, or making a vital contribution to society, or creating something brilliant and inspiring, or expressing ourselves somehow. It’s not the money that matters, but the impact of the work.

Are you doing work that matters?

For many of us, experiencing life would matter — really being in the moment, finding passion in our lives, seeing the world and traveling, or just seeing the world that’s around us right now, being with great people, doing amazing things, eating amazing food, playing.

These are just a few ideas … but what would matter to you?

I highly recommend that you spend at least a little time now, and regularly, thinking about this question … figuring out what really matters … and living a life that shows this.

How do you live a life that puts a great emphasis on what matters? Start by figuring out what matters, and what doesn’t. Then eliminate as much as you can of the stuff that doesn’t matter, or at least minimize it to the extent possible.

Make room for what does matter.

Make the time for what does matter … today. Put it on your schedule, and don’t miss that appointment. Make those tough decisions — because choosing to live a life that is filled with the important stuff means making choices, and they’re not always easy choices. But it matters.

Spend time with your significant other, show them how important they are. Take the time to cuddle with your child, to read with her, to play with her, to have good conversations with her, to take walks with her. Take time to be in nature, to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take time to savor the little pleasures in life.

Because while you might not have only 6 months to live, I’m here to break the news to you: you really do only have a short time to live. Whether that’s 6 months, 6 years or 60 … it’s but the blink of an eye.

The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.

The Power of Being Present

written by Leo Babauta

‘Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.’ ~Thich Nhat Hahn

How can you bring calm and peace to the middle of a stress-ful, chaotic day?

The answer is simple, though not always so easy to put into practice: learn to be present.

No matter how out-of-control your day is, no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, the act of being present can become an oasis. It can change your life, and it’s incredibly simple.

When I asked people what things prevent them from having a peaceful day, some of the responses:

Social media and other digital distractions.
Email. Decisions.
My 5 rowdy children.
Dishes, Laundry, Kids.
Needless interruptions.
Lack of control.

The amazing thing: all of these problems can be solved by one technique. Being Present.

How Being Present Solves Problems

When you look at all of the problems above, you can see if you look closely that the problems are entirely in the mind. Sure, there are external forces at work: an uncontrollable job, the stress of kids and chores and interruptions and digital distractions. But it’s how our mind handles those external forces that is the problem.

If you are completely present, the external forces are no longer a problem, because there is only you and that external force, in this moment, and not a million other things you need to worry about.

If your kid interrupts you, you can stress out because you have other things to worry about and now your kid is adding to your worries or interrupting your calm. Or you can be present, and there is then only you and the child. You can appreciate that child for who she is, and be grateful you have this moment with her.

If your job demands that you focus on an urgent task, you can stress out because you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do them. Or you can be present, and focus completely on that task, and now there is only that one task and you. When you’re done, you can move on to the next task.

Social media and other digital distractions don’t interrupt us if we close them and learn to pour ourselves completely into the present task. And if we need to do email, Twitter, or read blogs, we can set aside everything else and just be present with that one digital task.

Being present becomes, then, a way to handle any problem, any distraction, any stressor. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now.

How to Practice Being Present

The method for being present is fairly simple, but it’s the practice that matters most.

Most people don’t learn to be present because they don’t practice, not because it’s so hard to do.

When you practice something regularly, you become good at it. It becomes more a mode of being rather than a task on your to-do or someday list.

Practice, practice, and being present will become natural.

Here’s how to do it: whatever you’re doing, right now, learn to focus completely on doing that one thing. Pay attention: to every aspect of what you’re doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts.

  • You will notice your thoughts, if you’re paying attention, jump to other things. That’s OK — you are not trying to force all other thoughts from your mind. But by becoming aware of that jumping around in your thoughts, you have found the tool for gently bringing yourself back to your present task. Just notice the jumping thoughts, and lovingly come back.
  • Do this once, then do it again. Don’t worry about how many times you must do it. Just do it now.
  • It can become tiring at first, if you’re not used to it. Don’t worry about that. Let yourself rest if you grow tired. Come back and practice again in a little while. It’s not meant to be exhausting — instead you should notice how your worries melt away and you enjoy your present task much more.
  • Be joyful in whatever you’re doing, grateful that you’re able to do that task, and fully appreciate every little movement and tactile sensation of the task. You’ll learn that anything can be an amazing experience, anything can be a miracle.
  • Practice throughout your day, every day. Little “mindfulness bells” are useful to remind you to come back to the present. Thich Nhat Hanh once recommended that stoplights be your mindfulness bell as you drive. You can find mindfulness bells everywhere: your child’s voice, your co-workers appearing before you, a regular event on your computer, the noise of traffic.
  • Meditation is a fantastic way to practice, only because it removes much of the complexity of the world and allows you to just learn to be aware of your mind, and to bring yourself back to the present moment. It’s not complicated: meditation can be done anywhere, anytime. A meditation teacher is useful if you can find one.

Practice, repeatedly, in small easy beautiful steps. Each step is a wonder in itself, and each practice helps you to find that calm in the middle of the traffic of your life.

‘Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh

The Secrets of Making Your Work More Enjoyable

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’ – George Bernard Shaw

For too many people, work is drudgery.

They dread going to work each day, procrastinate on doing tasks they’d really rather not do, and generally aren’t excited about doing tasks and projects assigned to them by someone else.

The problem is that they’ve found work to be boring, hard, repetitive, stressful. What they need to discover (or rediscover in some cases) is the concept of work as play.

It’s something that has changed my life, and the lives of many others like me.

Work doesn’t have to be boring — it can be exciting, something you look forward to, an outlet for your creativity and imagination. It can be play.

One of the problems is that for many of us, school was designed to prepare us for the working world, and as such it was designed to teach us to work in ways that are boring. It’s like eating your vegetables (which I actually love as an adult) — you do it because it’s good for you. We did our homework and seatwork and drills because they were good for us.

Well, the fun of learning and doing was drilled right out of us. And as adults, we were told we had to work hard to get ahead, that work wasn’t fun but that’s just how life is.

That’s a Lot of BS.

Life is what you make of it. It can be drudgery, or it can be play. Or something else entirely.

I’ve discovered the concept of work as play, mostly because I’ve become my own boss, and can pick what I want to work on, and set my own schedule. As a result, I work on things that excite me, that I’m passionate about, and it’s fun. If something is drudgery, I either drop it or find a way to make it play.

As a result, I work harder than ever, but it’s exciting and fun. I pour myself into my work, and can’t wait to do it.

Turning work into play doesn’t mean you don’t work hard, or that you never do boring tasks. If you’ve ever played a sport, you know that you work as hard as anyone when you’re playing or practicing — but that’s no problem, because you’re having a blast doing it.

Learning is the same way — it can be boring and soul-crushingly repetitive, or it can be interesting and joyful and consume all our free time. I know when I become absorbed with learning about something, I can get caught up in it for days and learn vast amounts of information and skills, without once thinking it’s hard or boring. That almost never happened when I was at school, because they made it work, and I wasn’t in control of what I learned.

So there are a few elements that can help turn work into play:

  • Freedom. If you set your own schedule and are able to work on or learn about what you’re interested in and excited about, it can be play. If someone else tells you what to do and when, you won’t be as excited or interested or motivated.
  • Excitement. Again, follow your passions. Don’t be restrained. If something isn’t interesting, move on to something that is. Don’t force things.
  • Playing with others. While I like to play with myself, playing with others can be so much more fun sometimes. And yes, I know that sounds dirty. Read it as you like.
  • Pour yourself into it. You can skip from one thing to another, and that’s fine, but you might never accomplish anything that way. I find that when I get excited and really pour myself into a project, I can accomplish a lot and have a ton of fun doing it.
  • Showing off. One of the reasons boys like sports so much is because they get to show off for girls (and at a younger age, for their mothers). There’s nothing wrong with this — I think we’re hardwired to want to look good in front of our peers (or the opposite sex). When you’re going to make something public, it’s exciting and fun.

There are other elements of play, but these are enough to get you started. Some further thoughts:

  • Coaches. Are you drilling skills into your players? Stop! You’re teaching a game, so teach it by letting them play games. Let them play, but structure the play so it’s not only fun, but instructive.
  • Teachers and parents. Are you drilling knowledge and skills into your students or children? Stop! Learning should be fun, and it really is when the child is allowed to have fun, to play, to explore, to create as he wishes, to learn about whatever he’s interested in at the moment. Don’t make it unfun.
  • Bosses. Are you forcing your employees to do drudgery type work? Do you control everything they do and when they do it? Stop! Give them freedom! Give them control over their work. Allow them to pursue things they’re interested in. Google’s 20% policy is just one example. When people can pursue things they’re excited about, when they can turn work into play, amazing things happen.
  • Employees. Is your work drudgery? Turn it into play! If you are stuck in a job where you absolutely cannot turn work into play, look elsewhere. There’s more out there.

I can’t stress the importance of work as play enough. It has turned my life into something joyful, it’s allowed me to create and accomplish so much more than ever before, and I love every minute of it. I wish you nothing less than this simple happiness.

‘Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.’ – Mark Twain

The Castillo’s Rules For Living a Meaningful Life

written by Sar Castillo as a Reminder for himself, his wife and their 3 young children (and anyone who will be part of the family in the future)

  1. Honor our Maker with prayer and time to reflect. Find the time to reflect on the goodness of the Lord and his role in our lives. Our relationship with him may be unseen, but it is the most important one of all.

  2. Honor the temple of the holy spirit… your body. Don’t smoke, drink or do any kind of drugs. Just don’t. You’ll thank me for it when you’re older. Trust me. Also, keep moving and get at least 8 hours of restful sleep daily.

  3. Do what you say you will do… No Excuses. Without his word, a man is nothing. This applies to things I tell others I will do as well as things I tell myself I’ll do.

  4. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t withhold information, don’t mislead. Be forthright and truthful at all times… its more difficult to keep track of the many false stories that make up a lie.

  5. Always protect your family. We are strong if we stick together as one team, like we always have. Don’t let any harm come upon anyone in the family or be a source of harm to anyone in the family as well. Defend each other.

  6. Be a source of positive energy. Decide to be positive. Choose to be happy and live a life of abundance. While a negative thought or two may come to you once in a while, quickly pick yourself up and refocus on the good things to be grateful for.

  7. Be on time, always. Get there at least five minutes early every single time and wait. It’s a very very minor inconvenience in return for being much more reliable.

  8. Eat healthy, Strive for Balance. I do cheat days every week or two, either when traveling or when it’s the polite thing to do around other people. Fad diets are just that… Fads. While you could ultimately reach your goal, maintaining it is another story altogether with Fad diets.

  9. Do the right thing, even if it comes at personal cost. I have a very strong set of morals, which aren’t necessarily totally congruent with everyone else’s, but I defend them and keep them strong by living by them as closely as I can.

  10. Computers and Gadgets are off at midnight (Save for Weekends). The only real exception to this would be if by not doing so I would break rule #1 to other people. If I told myself I was going to do something but wouldn’t be able to by shutting off the computer, I consider that to be good punishment for not getting it done earlier.

  11. Listen to people, Connect with them. I used to be bad at this and I hate it when people don’t pay attention in conversation. So when I have a conversation with someone, I make sure I’m really listening and not just waiting for my turn to speak. Pretty basic stuff, but I’d say 50% of people don’t do it.

  12. Walk out of movies, stop reading books, leave parties. If I’m participating in some sort of entertainment or leisurely activity and I realize that it’s not going to be worth the additional time spent,leave. The real decision at hand is: how do I want to spend the next hour of my life.

  13. When buying things (gadgets included), buy the best you can reasonably afford or something temporary and disposable. If it doesn’t make financial sense to buy the best, I invest the smallest amount of money possible in a temporary fix. In other words, I would buy a disposable camera or a Php50,000 Olympus, but never a Php5,000 Digicam.

  14. Do things that excite you, follow your passion. Let your passion guide you and your desire drive you to do what you were born to do. If you don’t look forward to waking up in the morning to do what you need to do, how will you pursue this with all your heart? You need to love what you do in order to do great things and contribute to society in ways no matter how small.

  15. Always be learning something. I always have at least one learning project going on at all times. Right now it’s Android Kernel Development. Soon I’ll be as good as I want to be (develop for 2 other Android devices), and I will move on to either Chinese, French or improving my Guitar skills.

  16. Never have debt. I have suffered (and working hard to get out of it) for being neck-deep in debt. If you do need to borrow anything from anyone, don’t borrow from relatives. Trust me on this.

  17. Never, Ever Give Up. Always find the will to get back up and pursue your goals relentlessly. Everything seems impossible until you’ve done it… and prove its actually possible, given a little more time and extra effort.

  18. Invest in Experiences. If you have the most basic needs covered (House, Car, Food, Phones, Computing Devices for every Family Member) invest in vacations and outings… and capture these memories on Film. No need to buy 3 houses or 2 phones for each person or 5 cars for that matter.

  19. Use the power of 1%. Improve a little at a time. Develop habits that build up and add up into making you remarkable. Start now, don’t delay.

  20. Don’t discuss a problem IF: a. you don’t have a possible solution in your mind OR b. you have no control of whatsoever. If you can’t change it yourself, its beyond your control so its better to pursue those areas and challenges where you can truly make a difference.

–Adapted from and Inspired by Tynan’s Rules