Just start with being good

“your purpose is to be a good human being” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.5

We’ve all got a lot going on and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.

It’s easy to get caught up in politics, in deadlines, in family spats and forget that everything should start from a single point: be a good person.

If we don’t start there, the rest just doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what else you’re contributing if you’re an arsehole while doing it. You’re netting out any benefit by being a dick – and the world has quite enough dicks at the moment.

Start with being good – not just as a guide, but as your primary purpose.

Make it your mission, your raison d’être.

Because if we don’t intentionally work at being good – we won’t be.

If we don’t put it at the centre of what we do, then good will fall by the wayside.

We’ll focus on being right, or fast, or cheap, or done.

They might be important, but they’re not fundamental.

They’re not good.

Good is too important to be a tertiary concern.

Good should be our first principle.

Making space for what’s important

Tessellated Pavement by Daniel Sallai

There are things in our lives which sit very close to our core, that are tied intrinsically to our sense of self.

It’s important that we give them space to breathe, because amongst everything else in our lives, they’re our form of self expression. They’re our self actualisation.

The trouble is, they’re often not be tied to other people, and therefore will not make it onto our lists of obligation or necessity on any given day.

These things won’t make the kids dinner, or write the report for the boss, or ask your partner how their day was – but they’re important, because they will allow us to feel sense of satisfaction.

We can do everything in the world, but if we don’t take the time to identify and explore the things that are important to us, then we won’t be happy.

Mine is creating something for other people. It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking, writing, stand-up or knitting (that’s right, knit one, purl two mothers**kers) – I need to create something others can enjoy in order to feel a full sense of satisfaction. And I need to do it every day.

I don’t get paid for any of those things on a regular enough basis for them to satisfy any of the obligations or necessities I have – so I have to carve out and protect time for them. I have to make space for them, because they’re important.

At the moment, this means getting up before I’m ready, and writing. It’s a good option for me because it both requires little in the way of raw materials, and there is no upper limit to the number of people who can enjoy it. Double tick.

The rest of the day can go to hell – the kids can be grumpy, work can be a nightmare, I can get sick – but nothing can touch the satisfaction of self actualisation. And that creates a massive source of resilience in the face of adversity.

Conversely, the day can go swimmingly, but if I haven’t carved out the time to write (or create in another way), then it’s so much more difficult to feel an authentic sense of satisfaction with what’s been done.

So if you want time for what’s important, you’re first going to have make choices between what feels good at the time and what’s close to your core. What will give you the lasting satisfaction? Netflix might feel good, but will it make you resilient against a shitty day? Will it let you experience your fullest self? If so, great news. If not, dig a little deeper.

The second thing to do, is to know that no one is going to just give you extra time. You’re going to have to carve it out of there day with a knife and know that others will swoop on it like seagulls on hot chips.

It sounds like a lot of work, this delivering deep, meaningful, satisfaction stuff. And it is. But that’s what gives it value.

It also gets easier the more you do it.

There aren’t many things in life which will let you face headlong into a shitty day with a smile on your face, so when you find one, make time for it. Because, it’s important.