I was asked this wonderful question of ‘What are the 5 most important things in life?’ by a senior Rotarian at a Rotary Club presentation I gave recently. I was honoured to be asked such a question by this beautiful and humbled man with far more life experiences and years of wisdom over me. I can also see how his question came about with the privileged life I’ve had in the past 15 years, 80 countries and 1000’s of interactions with different people.
My answer to this at the time was a bit scratchy having to think on my feet and quickly but the first few things that came to mind were attributes like resilience, resourcefulness, simplicity and following your heart not your head.
In the week since that Q&A session I’ve made time to think more about my top 5 most important things in life.
Firstly in my list I don’t have any ‘things’, I’ve never been worried about losing all my stuff. That definition of things for me is stuff and stuff I can live without, replace or get as I need.
The following ideas are the things that I feel are most important to me to be happy, fulfilled and makes me excited to wake up every morning and not hate Mondays.
#1 – Simplicity
#2 – Resilience
#3 – Learning
#4 – Community
#5 – Giving
Number 1 – Simplicity
I love simplicity. I get so much from life and the world when I have just enough. My favourite quote that I created and share is that ‘we can all have everything we want in the world as long as we don’t want everything’. Simplicity not only adds richness to my life in being more with less but also enriches my connection with people and the planet since my favourite things are walking, meeting people, serving others and reflecting. I also think a lot of mindfulness, humility, contentment, gratitude and peace come with simplicity and gives me a huge sense of freedom where my stuff doesn’t own me and where I’m not a part of the work and spend cycle. Additionally (I could write a whole blog and book on this) it is much better for the environment. I have been fortunate to learn from so many people around the world who live with less (often not by choice) but has given me a very clear perspective in life of what I need not what I want.
Number 2 – Resilience
I think resilience is a wonderful trait to have. It makes happiness, contentment and gratitude so much more attainable when I look through the lens of just enough is plenty and anything is a bonus. Again I have the fortune to have seen, learnt and lived with some of the most resilient people in the world (who shouldn’t have to be). Resilience also make me appreciate what I have and not what I ‘should’ have. Resilience also gives me pleasure in my physical pursuits when climbing mountains, riding my bike and facing mental physical barriers. I feel very lucky to be so strong mentally from having a high sense of resilience. I can’t complain about many of my personal situations when I know there are others who endure so much more and that they do it with a live-in-the-moment and tomorrow-is-another-day attitude.
Number 3 – Learning
This is my favourite kind of education. Being outside on an adventure discovering the world together!
I feel I am always happy, excited, intrigued and fulfilled while learning. I love learning. My passion for new places and new people is to interact and learn more all of the time. I value experiences that give me the opportunity to learn, gain new perspectives and grow as a human and particularly as an active and effective global citizen. Learning is like a source of lifeblood to keep me humble, interested and intrigued. As an educator I love not only continuing to learn from my audiences but to be a source of learning for others in the sharing I do. Learning makes me feel young, it fuels my passions and it forces me to continually change. I also love unconventional and alternative education. I always say my education started the day I left university and started travelling and interacting with the world. I admire not so much the people who know a lot but who want to know a lot, I can see it in their eagerness to listen and learn. I’ve been so fortunate to have learn from all kinds of people and places in the world and I am a direct product of my experiences.
Number 4 – Community
I believe we all need a sense of place and purpose. While I don’t know what my job is nor where I live I do feel a part of the global community and the overwhelming feeling that people are essentially good and we love to interact, learn and help others. I am almost always a visitor everywhere I go but I can connect with community in so many ways. Community adds a lot of fun to life for us to build shared experiences and memories to rehash with each other or others well into the future. I think of family as community, and I think of community as family. I aspire to be as connected and caring about anyone else in the world as would my own family as it is ultimately only birth that separates or joins us together. Two big highlights of community in my past was building the two Happy, simply tiny homes. The reason I build two tiny homes was to create community and that powerful experience of learning, sharing and growing together. In many of the world’s ‘poorest’ places I have seen the ‘richest’ communities and some of the world’s ‘poorest’ communities in the world’s ‘richest’ places. Communities are often difficult, hard work and frustrating but I’d rather be an active participant than a complaining bystander.
Number 5 – Giving
While I was giving some kind of education to these kids in the highlands of Guatemala they were educating me in lots of life lessons and perspectives
I know firsthand the satisfaction of not only giving to others but receiving giving from others and their satisfaction. I find giving a gift and when we give we ultimately receive. Giving gives us a wonderful sense of purpose and fulfilment, I feel an abundance of joy and purpose when I’ve played a role in the fulfilment of another. For me giving is the essential component for being an educator and to see others benefit from your time, energy, expertise and effort. I don’t give so I can feel good about myself, I give so I feel good about someone else. I’ve learn the most from those who give even when they have no ‘things’ to give. As a significant receiver of giving I have a wonderful source of experiences from people from every kind of culture, country, race, religion, economic status and I feel giving, hospitality, kindness and generosity is universal. We love to give we just sometimes forget how good it is if we don’t make it a habit.
When I am living simplicity, being resilient, learning, feeling a sense of community and giving to others it’s a pinch-the-skin kind of day. I can honestly say this has been my daily life for the past 15 years and I don’t plan to change that any day soon.
So in a much longer winded answer to the question of my Rotary friend these are the 5 most important ‘things’ in my life and why.
A few other things I like and are important to me are: adventure, discovery, vulnerability, nature, sport, advocacy, sharing, humour, humility, generosity, celebrations, stories, travel and culture…
If you are curious to some of the sources of my 5 things that aren’t just my experiences and conversations with people then check out a few of these links:
Throw yourself into life situations that provide quality experiences and learning :)