4 Ways to Live a Life That Matters

Spooning the white mush into my mouth, I hold my poker face while swallowing, then smile as though I enjoy it.
A dozen or so boys surround us, ranging in age from 4 to 14, are watching us eat.
We are their special guests, and they’ve presented us with a gift – a meal made specifically for us, assembled from all they had – mush.
It was the kind of mush you would complain about as a kid – lumpy and lacking any flavor – the kind you had to force down.
And they had given us six heaping bowls of it! One for my husband and I, and each of our four small children.
We couldn’t turn it down, we couldn’t throw it away. So we sat and ate it, one unpleasant spoonful at a time, all the while realizing that anyone of those boys would be more than happy to have a bowl full of the mush that sat so unappetizingly before us.
But they would have to wait to eat, until they were served one of the three very simple meals they received at the orphanage where they were living, and where we were visiting, in the Dominican Republic.
We had come as part of a literacy project we had orchestrated. We’d brought them books, read and played with them, and in return, besides unpalatable mush, they had given us their hearts.
Though it’s been years since that experience occurred, it stands out as one of the most fulfilling days of my life. It was a day that mattered – to me and to the boys we visited.
It was a day that mattered because it was spent doing something that I considered to be worthwhile. Something that helped another person, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.
Having a day that matters is notable. Having a life that matters is epoch-making.
What does it mean to live a life that matters?
Does it mean we have to be rich and famous, eliminate world hunger, or win a Nobel Prize? Do we have to do ‘big’ and ‘important’ things?
Not necessarily. We can live a life that matters simply by designing a lifestyle that allows us to spend time doing those things which are meaningful to us.
As Thoreau put it, too many of s are ‘leading lives of quiet desperation.’ We do the same things, day after day after day, and what we get is a life that’s unfulfilling.
Why are we doing the things we’re doing- whether soccer games, PTA, paying our mortgage, going to school or a job
Are we doing it because it brings us lasting peace and fulfillment? Did we choose those things based off of the things we place highest value on? Or were they kind of assimilated into our life by default?
Living a life that matters doesn’t require fame and fortune, intellect or ability. All that is required is examining your life, discovering what is important to you, and then living your life by those priorities.
Here are  tips for living your life with meaning.
1. Dream Big Dreams
Allow yourself to dream, and come up with the most crazy, extreme, ‘impossible’ thing you can think of doing that you would absolutely LOVE to do.
Is it working with orphans in another country? Starting your own business selling jewelry? Eradicating leprosy? Helping women feel build confidence? Decorating cakes?
It doesn’t have to be philanthropic, or something ‘grand’ (although it can be if that suits your fancy). It just needs to be a dream that speaks to you.
If we never allow ourselves to dream, we certainly don’t even give ourselves a chance to achieve those dreams.
2. Get Out of Victimville
Victimville is a city in the state of mind where all the residents are inflicted with the disease of victimism.
Victimism takes form in words and beliefs such as:
“I can’t afford it”
“It’s just the way things are/I am”
“It’s too hard”
“It’s not possible”
“I would if I could, but….”
“I can’t because of my boss/spouse/job/taxes/government”
Those who life a life of meaning and fulfillment are those who accept responsibility for their life – realizing that they have made their life they way it is today – and recognizing that they can create something different.
Until you leave Victimville by realizing that you already have the power to make your life anything you want it to be, you’ll never reach the level of fulfillment that is possible for your life.
3. Live By Your Priorities
Socrates once said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Take the time to examine your life, decide what is important to you, and then live by those priorities.
Is watching your favorite show on top of your priority list? What about updating your Facebook status? Spending hours in a cubicle?
If those things aren’t what bring you happiness and fulfillment, then don’t spend hours doing them.
Instead use that time to work on achieving your ambitions.
What about the PTA meeting, or your commitment to attend that home party where you’ll be obligated to buy more doo-dads?
If it doesn’t add to your life, or fit into your list of top priorities, then cut it out, as painful as it may be at first.
4. Take Decisive Action
Achievement and change requires action.
If you continue doing the things you are doing now, you’ll continue to have the same things/experiences that you have now.
Doing the same things and expecting your life to somehow drastically improve is most certainly insanity.
Your life will only improve as you do, and you will only improve as you take decisive action in the direction you want to go.
Thinking about starting that business? What’s the first thing you would need to do? Act now by finding out.
What about working at that orphanage? Take the steps now to find out where and which one.
Your actions needn’t be huge. They can be as small as a phone call, internet research, or talking to the right person.
But they should be consistent. Do one small step at a time, but take them everyday.
Feeling fulfilled by our life doesn’t require doing ‘great’ things, but only doing small things in a great way – choosing to live by our priorities every day.
Rachel Denning
Rachel and her family are currently driving from Alaska to Argentina, sleeping in their veggie powered truck with their 5 kids. I cannot get enough of their stories and am thrilled for Rachel to become a HipMum contributor. To read more about Rachel and the woman behind the mother click here

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