With Thanksgiving passing, and Christmas on the way we begin to think about what matters to us; What matters more then anything. We tell ourselves that family, friends, a good home, and good company is all that we need, but what we need is different from what matters. For me I’ve thought a lot about what matters. What makes me who I am, and I’ve had some help along the way I found something that worked for me, so maybe it’ll work for someone else.
It’s rather simple. all you need is sixteen index cards and a trashcan. this might sound odd at first, but just trust me. One the sixteen index cards write one item per card. Make sure that four of the cards have people on them. Four should have places, four should be items, and four should be ideas.
When you’re thinking about what people to put choose the people that mean the most to you, the people you simply can’t live without. For some people it might be hard to narrow it down to just four, and for others it could be difficult to come up with four people. Whichever way fits you keep that in mind as well while you place the names of these four people on four of the cards.
With places, think of the happiest, saddest, and above all else, most meaningful memories. The memories that shaped who you are. The memories that you believe made you who you are today. Where were you when those memories were taken place? Home? School? Maybe a friends house, or maybe you were somewhere completely different. Where ever you were these are the places you should write down, and don’t forget to only choose four.
Next are items. Items that you hold dear. it can be anything from the clothing on your back to the food at your table. It can be that childhood toy you still have, or some other object or possession that means something to you. Some people might be ashamed to say that objects are important to them, but if you are you shouldn’t be. Meaning and purpose can come from anything, but at the same time the items who choose don’t have to have a direct purpose or meaning. They might just be the first four items that come to your mind, and that’s okay. When you figure out what four items mean the most to you write them down on four cards.
Lastly choose four ideas that mean everything to you. This can be anything from love to friendship, to greed, or even hate. These ideas are what helped you become who you are today. You learned these ideas from the people around you. You watched as these ideas grew and grew as you did. These are the ideas that at your very core are what you desire. When you choose these four ideas write them down on four cards remembering to put only one idea per card.
Now that you have all sixteen cards complete look at what you have written. Look at what matters to you. Was it easy to come up with sixteen? Maybe it was difficult? Whether it was easy or hard this next part is going to be difficult.
Choose five cards. These cards can be from any category, but choose carefully, for these are the cards you are throwing away. With each card you choose to throw away think of this as you do. If you choose to throw away a card with a person, think about what it would be like to never see them again. To never hear their voice, or see their face. If you choose to throw away a place, think about the memory that it represents, and think about what your life would be like if that memory never happened. What would you be like? Who would you be? If you choose an item, think about what that idea means to you. Think about never seeing that item again. Never having it or remembering what it even looks like. And if you choose an idea think about what your life would be like if you never had that idea again. What if you never felt it again?
Now with those questions in mind choose four more cards to throw away.
Now choose three.
Now you’re down to your last two cards. Are they from the same category? Or are they from completely different ones?
Now choose one of those last two cards and throw it away.
What do you have left? Whatever it is, whoever it is, or wherever it is know that, that one thing is the most important to you. Now tell yourself why. Convince yourself that you made the right choose. If you could, would you take back a card you through away? Would you change your mind about that one person, or that one item, or that one memory, or even that one idea? Now think about this.
If your last card is a person think about why they mean so much to you. Think about all the memories you had together. Think about everything you felt or feel when your around them or even just thinking about them. Think about everything you did or do together. That time you went to the amusement park together, or the time you defended each other form something terrible, or even that time all you did together was sit and talk.
If your last card is a place think about who you were with, think about what you were doing, and think about why this one place means so much to you. Think about everything you saw, smelled, tasted, touched, and heard. Think about the ideas you had that made this one place meaningful.
If your last card is an item think about who gave you the item, and why. Think about what you felt when you first touched it. Think about what you feel now just thinking about it. Maybe you always have it with you, maybe it’s something as simple like food or clothing, and yet the meaning behind it is far from simple. Maybe this one item is the reason that all the people, ideas, and places you threw away happened. Maybe without this one item nothing else would matter.
If your last card is an idea think about this. Think about all the people in your life who you share this idea with. Maybe the idea you choose was love, or maybe even hate. Think about when you have this idea, think about where it’s most meaningful and prevalent for you. Think about the things you did when having this idea.
People, places, items, and ideas are what make us who we are. Now fold that last card of yours in half and put it in your pocket. Once it’s safely in your pocket take out all the cards you just threw away. Look at the name of every person, think of the memories of every place, think of the meaning of every item, and think of the desire to have every idea you threw away, and know that no matter why you threw them away, those people, places, items, and ideas are still with you. You still have them.
Think about it all. This about what matters most to you.
This activity was shown to me at a leadership training in college. I never thought harder and more honestly about the things that mattered to me before I did this. It helped put a lot of things in perspective for me, but most importantly it helped me realize that meaning can come from anyone, anywhere, anything, and any idea.