Discovering what matters to you- a possible recipe for spinning your wheels

Throughout my life, I’ve been engaged in the question, “What really matters?” trying to figure out, “What should I do with the rest of my life?”

I’ve gone- from dentist to career consultant to wellness consultant to personal development trainer to financial services adviser to partner of a health promotion organization to business coach to owner of an online business. Maybe one day I’ll get it right!:-)

Whatever work I’ve been engaged with has included using my top transferable skill– coaching. Now I find myself in another transition reflecting on what’s next.

Transition (adapting to change) has been a challenge for me- like being in mid air between trapezes. My tendency is  to get caught up in the notion that if I truly want to be fulfilled in life, I need to DISCOVER, what truly matters to me; what I’m designed to to do; my calling. Much of the personal development field suggests that this is the way to go.


Here’s a video presented by Richard Leider, whose work speaks to the “power of purpose.” It’s an example of the common notion of discovery as a way to access what’s really important.

 This feels right to me. However, there’s another approach that could be more effective for people like myself.

I’m addressing this issue in the context that there is a growing number of entrepreneurs who want to give back to society beyond “business as usual.” They really haven’t reflected on what’s most important to them, which can guide them in their choice of work,

Here I am in my 60s and I say to myself, “Time is running out. It’s time to commit myself to something that’s going to engage me fully, to make a difference for others in which I’ll just know that I’m doing what I’m meant to do.” It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed whatever form my work has taken. What I do know is that it comes pretty naturally to me to want to assist people in some way in the form of coaching, teaching, advising, mentoring and being a valuable resource. I’m also clear that the domains in which I most enjoy “playing” include personal development and transformation- personal, relational, organizational and planetary.

This quote from the book, Creating by Robert Fritz has given me a different perspective on this matter…

“The people who hope to discover what matters to them have a tendency to be unsure of their purpose in life, while at the same time feeling that they have a destiny that must be fulfilled. This is not a winning combination, because while they attempt to discover what matters to them, they put their lives on hold.

They do know that they want to be true to themselves and live in accordance with what might deeply matter to them but they are hopelessly caught in a cycle that keeps them in a state of limbo. At times these people will think they have found an ‘IT’- as in ‘This is IT’- only to be disappointed later.”

Fritz offers the point of view that you won’t discover what matters to you. It’s not something that you can discover. “You can consider what matters as an original and authentic question,” which isn’t the same as searching for something to which you can respond.

Creating from a blank slate

Rather than discovering what matters to us, relating to ourselves as our circumstances and our past, we have the power to bring something new into existence from nothing, independent from the past and who we consider ourselves to be. This is what it means to create.

Fritz offers these general principles…

  1. Nothing has to matter to you.
  2. What once mattered may no longer matter.
  3. When you consider what matters to you, do not consider your current circumstances.
  4. Separate yourself from what matters to you.
  5. Once you consider something that matters to you, imagine putting it into your life, then taking it out.
  6. You choose what matters to you. Things matter to you because they matter to you. You don’t need to have a reason.

Much of my thinking about fulfilling work comes from the work of Richard Bolles and others like him who advocate taking an “inside/outside” approach- getting to know yourself first and then choosing some form of work that matches what you discovered.

A creative approach that I find liberating is based on the writings of Herminia Ibarra and her book, Working Identity. She refers to a static definition of identity- as an “inner truth” or “inevitable essence.” If we don’t know what our true-self is, we’re reluctant to make any choices. ““We wait for the flash of blinding insight, while opportunities pass us by.”

“What really happens in effective change is a necessarily open-ended, tentative, exploratory, hypothetical, problematic, changeable, and only partially unified process.” In other words, through action and experimentation. through creation, we bring something new into existence and test it out. We have the freedom to change our minds!


  1. What matters to you in your life?
  2. Why do you do what you do?
  3. How do you want to live your life?
  4. What future are you creating? For yourself? For others?
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