Last week my husband called with what he thought was exciting news. He’d scored free tickets to the Aztecs game and – more importantly in his opinion – to the fireworks show afterwards.
“The fireworks are supposed to be incredible,” he told me excitedly. “Wanna go?”
And then he waited for my answer.
The truth? No, I didn’t want to go.
Hubbie loves all things pyrotechnic, and so I’ve seen my share of fireworks displays. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen your share, too. Plus the show was on Saturday, my beloved day of rest for the week.
And so I shrugged and said, “Not really…but if you want to go I’ll do it.”
But let’s be clear.
We didn’t go because he won some silly argument. We didn’t go because I all of a sudden realized that fireworks shows are just too fabulous to miss.
We went because, in the end, I really didn’t care that much what we did. I just wanted to have some fun, spend some time together, and get away from the weekday grind.
The truth is, when it really comes down to it there’s a whole lot I don’t care about.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not a passionate person (have you met me?). It doesn’t mean I’m unfeeling or ambivalent in general.
What it means is that I’ve figured out the big question – and in turn, the key to happiness.
Does this really matter…really?
The answer, when I’m being honest, means everything.
The best leaders I know understand that the key to happiness is to figure out what they care about and pursue it ferociously.
Then, they let the rest of it go.
Think it’s easy? Think again.
I, for one, used to be terrible at this.
I was one of those people.
The kind who argues just to…argue.
Because they think it’s fun or because it’s something to win. Or because they want to be right.
Or because they think it matters.
But then I realized how frustrated I’d become when I didn’t get my way. I realized how much energy I was putting into things that, in the end, didn’t mean that much to me.
And so I figured out what really I care about. For now, the list is as follows:
The Five Things Deirdre Really Cares About
- My husband and our quality of life
- My close circle of family and friends
- My business
- My book
- My “me time” at the gym
What this means is that – each and every day – whenever I’m working on, talking about or pursuing something connected to this list, I aggressively push forward. I make choices. I fight for what I believe in.
I fervently defend my Big Five.
The rest? I let it go.
Because I don’t need to get anything from it. Because, in the end, I really don’t care that much.
- When my family comes to visit and we’re deciding how to spend the day, I let them choose. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.
- When I’m with friends and politics come up, I move the conversation to something else. I don’t need to convince anybody of anything, and would rather feel peaceful.
- When someone is using the gym equipment I want, I move on to another machine. I just want to work my shoulders somehow.
When hubbie and I choose our restaurant, or our movie, or what we’ll watch on the tube that night, I usually throw out some options and leave it up to him.
I care enough to know that I’d prefer mindless reality TV over a mindless sitcom, but it pretty much stops there.
Want to be happier, lighter, more energetic? Ask the question.
Does this really matter…really?
- Do I really care about the outcome of this or do I just need to convince someone I’m right?
- Do I really need to get my way or will the experience be fine regardless of how it turns out?
- Do I really want to put forth the energy, the time, and the frustration to come out on top?
If the answer is no, let it go. And know it’ll be fine.
By the way, that second really is in there for a reason.
Because often times our first answer to the question is a hearty: Yes…of course it matters!
That was my answer…a lot.
But once I pinpointed my Big Five, once I asked that question again, once I got to that second really…I realized the answer is often…no.
And so I learned to let things go.
- And I let others have their way.
- And I let them…dare I say it?…win.
- And I saved myself energy and time.
This week, pay attention to what you’re fighting for. What you’re putting your energy into.
And whether or not it really matters.
That fireworks show? It was…so-so. But in the end, it didn’t really matter.
But it mattered to hubbie. And it made him happy.
And so it made me happy, too.
Now, go do good…and do it well.
7 thoughts on “The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself. Twice.”
Well done, Deidre. Thanks for a timely reminder!
Deirdre, I love it! It takes a lot of maturity to get there and when we do, it is SO peaceful. Reminds me of an old adage “you can win the battle and lose the war.” The bonus is if someone you love is happy, you are too.
I am like the person you were before this insight…the kind that likes to argue just to argue, just to be right. I’ve recently become aware of this thanks to my life partner, and am working on it.
Any tips or advice you can share on how you were able to put into practice what you’re talking about? I’d love to hear more about the “how” of letting things go.
Thanks so much, Jane, for your comment. To be honest, putting this insight into practice has been – and continues to be – a lot of focused work. I actually spend some time each morning thinking through my priorities and focusing on what’s important. I read a daily meditation and have taken to saying a few affirmations each morning, which allows me to get centered before starting the day. This gets me in the right space to take things as they come and not be as reactive as I used to be. Over time my intensity has lessened and I have found a new sense of peace…though truth be told I still have to remind myself often, and in the moment, as to what’s important and what’s not.
Deirdre, I’m new to your blog, but I’m impressed already. My wife Jenny and I share the philosophy that we go to each other’s favorite things for the joy of seeing the other person doing what she or he enjoys. You must get many offers to do things you’d prefer not to do (excluding those with your husband, of course). How do you decide which to accept and which to decline?
Thanks for the comment Bill…and the question! And yes, I do get a lot of invitations. I do two things to vet. First, I have a mental set of parameters I go through which helps me to vet objectively. For instance, I’m open to many events on weeknights, less on weekends and very few in the early morning (when that fifth priority of mine comes in to play). Within this I will attend if the event is connected to an organization I’m working with or care about or which will most likely be either educational or entertaining for me. The second thing I do within those parameters is a mental cost-benefit analysis. What will the event cost (not just money) and what will it provide? If it comes out positive I’ll go. If not, I probably won’t.
Great post! I’m a recovering everything-has-to-matter type and it’s helped me immeasurably to focus on what’s really important to me and begin letting go of the rest. This really resonates.