How do you decide what really matters?

How do you decide what really matters?

How do you balance what’s fun, interesting, or rewarding with what matters?

I know about the platitudes—what matters to me is what matters to God. That’s true enough, I suppose, but it doesn’t always help me know if what I’m doing right now is work that’s worthy of my time, talent, or treasure. I want to use what I’ve been given wisely, so how do I decide?

What’s the work that really matters?

Last time I talked about money (Gasoline, Money, And Stuff That Matters). While there’s nothing wrong with an enterprise that makes a profit, I’m convinced that stuff that matters must be about more than accumulating wealth.

Since the Bouncing Back Workshop has been on my mind a lot recently—and assuming you’re not getting sick of hearing about it—suppose I use that as a concrete example.

The workshop’s certainly not about money. I have a few hundred hours invested in writing, creating visuals, and producing the workbook. I only charge for the materials and my expenses, so I’m not getting rich. But, by itself, that doesn’t mean it’s work that matters. There must be more to it.

What else? Any thoughts?

What about value? What am I getting from the experience, and what’s the benefit to others? I’m thinking that must be another measure.

If I’m doing work that matters, others must benefit more than I do.

So far, I’m on the wrong side of this ledger. I’ve learned so much from the writing process, analyzing my experiences, figuring out how to present my thoughts in a useful, coherent manner. I’ve been able to immerse myself in a truly meaningful (to me) and interesting project, which brings me huge value.

But right now I don’t think it qualifies as work that matters. Until I share what I’ve learned with others and know that they’ve received something useful, it’s just in my own head. I’ve learned and grown, and that’s a good thing. But I’m thinking that it doesn’t really matter much until it creates value for others.


Going back to the gasoline metaphor, it’s the difference between joy-riding and a meaningful journey. Nothing wrong with occasionally driving for pleasure or relaxation, but an entire life of joy-riding would be kind of empty. In order to matter, the journey needs a purpose.

To me, that purpose must involve giving more than I receive. And if I receive a lot, that’s great, as long as the value to others is greater. Otherwise, it’s simply self-gratification.

Does that make sense?

So, work that matters must meet these two criteria:

  • It must be about more than simply accumulating money.
  • It must produce more value for others than for me.

Do you agree? What have I missed? What else would you add?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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