There is a saying, “The older we get, the wiser we become.” Have you experienced your priorities changing as you’ve gotten older, and hopefully, much wiser?
I know when I was in my early twenties, fresh out of university, having career success was something I thought was important. Also, acquiring material things was something I also pursued, but as I have gotten older, it has become less and less important.
Why Does Our Priorities Change?
What causes us to change what we believe to be important as we get older?
One explanation could be that as we start achieving the things we think we want, we find that we are not satisfied or happy as we thought we would be.
If we do the things we do in order to feel happy, and if we don’t feel the happiness we thought we would, it makes us question what is truly important in life.
This may be a reason why we hear of middle-aged and older people making big changes in their lives because what they were doing previously was not making them happy.
Rather than wait till we’re much older, wouldn’t it makes sense to pay more attention now to what will matter more later in life? We can either be making a living or designing a life.
Recently, I was speaking to a former, now retired, work colleague and one of the questions I asked him was what was an important lesson he wish he knew before he retired.
He said that like most people, he believed that he needed to work for 40 years so that he could be financially secure in his retirement and finally achieve “the dream” of owning his own home. While he did not have any regrets working all those years, he wished he had worked in a career that would have given him more joy or meaning.
Interestingly, he was able to achieve the dream of owning his own home but a few years into his retirement, that home was no longer important because he needed to downsize based on the season of life he was in. He and his wife sold their home and relocated to a coastal area, and are now living in a smaller home.
Pursuing happiness and meaning by chasing financial success is usually temporary and very rarely leads to long-lasting fulfilment. It’s time to focus on what really matters in life.
3 Things That Will Matter More Later In Life
- Having real connection with people. Life is about relationships. This does not only include our personal relationships such as a significant other, siblings, children, parents or close relatives. It also includes friends, colleagues, peers and mentors. People will always come into and leave our lives. It’s the ones who we connect with well that will remain part of our lives for a long time. These are the type of relationships we should focus on developing and maintaining.
- Having inner peace. This can also be regarded as having peace of mind. Inner peace is about being present or being in the moment. It is not worrying about the past, which we cannot change, or focusing on the future, which is not here yet. All we have is the present moment. Having inner peace comes from letting go of attachment to things, people, conditions or circumstances we believe has to be in place before we can experience what we want. Inner peace comes from knowing who we are and what we’re here to do.
- Having a defining legacy. How we want to remembered matters so much more as we get older. There is no right or wrong way to be remembered, nor is one person’s legacy more nobler than someone else’s. What it comes down to is how we choose to serve the greater good, beyond just ourselves. For some, it may be being remembered as a great parent, a great partner or someone that contributed to the world in a major way. Doing work that matters is critical in leaving behind a lasting legacy.
It’s never too late to start focusing on what matters most in life. The more we can live our lives with these three things in mind, the less likely we’ll get to the end of our lives and wish we had done things differently. Paying attention to these things now will make our lives more enjoyable and meaningful.
Question: What do you think will matter more later in life?
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