What Matters Most?

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive, and is a contributor to The Brenner Brief.

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive, and is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @johnentgrp

This is a message that I want everyone to have during this holiday season.  Times are tough.  The pressure is on, in so many ways.  Take a few minutes and read these brief questions.  Then think really hard about your answers to them.  I believe you will start the New Year with a whole different set of priorities if you do this!

What matters most, in your life?  Think hard.  Is it:

  • Your family?
  • Your loved ones?
  • Your friends?
  • You—as a person?
  • Your health & well-being?
  • Your self-esteem?
  • Your integrity?

Which of these matters most?  Sure, they are all important, but when push comes to shove and you must choose among competing important parts of your life, what will you choose to favor over the others?  Now hold that thought and let’s shift gears.

What matters most in your work?

  • Your job?
  • Your income?
  • Your satisfaction?
  • Your prestige or position?
  • Your achievement?
  • Your advancement?
  • Your career?

Don’t say “all of them.”  That’s a cop-out! Certainly, prioritizing and doing well in some of them will lead to success in others, but what order of importance do you assign to them? What matters most?

Consider this bit of wisdom I first heard spoken by Stephen Covey: “So often we climb the ladder of success without ever checking to see if it is leaning against the right wall.”

Now, think again. What matters most?  It’s hard to choose, I know, but if you don’t think about it, the urgent will push out the important. Whether that leads you to what matters most is questionable.

What about your happiness?  What is happiness anyway? Can you even describe it? Give it a try. And, here’s a hint: it’s not about material possessions.

  • When was the last time you were really happy?
  • What were you doing?
  • With whom, and where?
  • Why did that make you happy?

What matters most — that made you happy?  Take a couple of minutes, and think hard. On your deathbed will you say, “I wish I’d spent more time in the office!” and will you have “worked to live” or “lived to work?”  That’s not a trivial question.  Think about it.

What matters most is sometimes best considered from the perspective of others.

  • Who really cares about you?
  • Who is there for you when you really need them?
  • And who isn’t?
  • Who are you really there for?
  • And who are you not there for enough?

Remember, “Don’t apologize or make excuses, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.”  I don’t know who said that first, but it sure is true most of the time.

Now we are back where we started. What matters most in your life?  That answer, or series of answers, should be the guide you use to set your priorities.  Setting priorities is among the hardest thing in life and in work.  It’s so easy to say, and so hard to do, especially if you decide you want to enjoy true happiness and satisfaction as a result of your choices.

I can’t tell you the answers, but if you’ve read this far you are starting to come up with some of them.  There’s no “undo” button when your kids are growing up.  You get a short time with them, and they are out on their own.  There is no “pause” button or “rewind and replay” if a loved one is afflicted with a serious or terminal illness, or if they are involved in a fatal accident.  At those awful times, the issue of what matters most is often clearer than it had ever been before — and it may be too late.

Take the time now in this holiday season and to thing about, and then choose, what matters most — what comes first, second and what must be dropped off the list? Compared to the other things, what matters almost not at all?

Once you decide on those priorities — on what matters most — then you must take action. Live for what matters most.  Think about it every time you have a decision to make.  Then make the right decision. Do the right thing. Nothing different happens until you do.

When you consider what matters most and get that right, you will improve your life and be more successful in your work.  Hopefully, when you have thought about what happiness really is, and really means, you will find it too.

Happy New Year!

John Mariotti is an internationally known executive and an award-winning author. His newest book, Roadmap to Profitable Growth, will be released at the beginning of 2013 and is described as “the book that could save the American economy.”   In 2012, Mariotti co-authored with D. M. Lukas, Hope is NOT a Strategy: Leadership Lessons from the Obama Presidency. Mariotti gives keynote speeches, serves on corporate boards and is a consultant/advisor to companies.  Learn more at www.mariotti.net.



  1. John, this is a great post to think about especially this time of year. Happy New Year!

  2. We don’t think enough about these questions.

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