Rethinking what really matters in life
We all move through life differently. We have different backgrounds, different upbringings, different values, beliefs, and ambitions. Things like success, wealth and true happiness mean different things to different people, and what matters most to some people will differ greatly to what matters to others. There are some things we all have in common however, no matter where we come from or what our current situation - we all have 24 hours in a day, we all have the same basic survival needs (food, water, oxygen, warmth) and we are all going to die one day. Fact.
I studied Business at University and went on to have a successful career with a large corporate, climbing my way up the ladder in my 5 inch heels. I worked my ass off, but the rewards were excellent (or so I thought at the time). Large commission cheques, fancy events in London, trips abroad, my own home, sports car, champagne lifestyle… for someone in their twenties, I thought this was the epitome of success. I brushed aside the stress that accompanied the position, the health implications, the massive lows that would undoubtedly follow the highs, because “This is it”, I thought, “This is what it’s all about!” I went on to set up my own business and I worked for myself for a number of years, in the meantime meeting my husband and having 3 baby boys. I took a good chunk of time off when each of my babies were born, but for the most part I juggled running my business and nurturing my babies… it was tough. It took its toll and eventually (last year), I found myself in a pretty shitty place. From the outside we had it all - my husband and I both had great careers, we had a lovely house in a desirable area, three beautiful, healthy boys, nice holidays… but our marriage had broken down, resulting in a (thankfully temporary) separation.
During our time apart I went through a period of intense reflection (which sounds really self indulgent, but when your life and everything you’ve come to know and depend upon changes drastically, it’s pretty inevitable). I analysed my life and myself (who even was I?) I dedicated time towards remembering who I was again - not just Fran Grant MD, Mum of 3, Wife - but who I really was at my core, the girl I’d long forgotten about. I realised that over the last few years I’d been moving so fast - but not in the right direction. I may as well have been on a treadmill (come to think of it, that’s exactly what I was on). I started to get to know myself, accept myself, and realise that actually, I am enough, just as I am (i.e. without the fancy job title or salary). I learned that our most precious commodities are not things, and they can’t be bought online or in the shops.
“Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer” ~ Ellen DeGeneres
During this time I also questioned my whole career - I didn’t love it (in fact the opposite was true) and it failed to fulfil me, apart from on an egotistical level as I loved the financial security and status. It simply had no meaning. I was going to bed miserable and stressed and waking up with that dreaded feeling (ergh, here we go again), and Sundays were damned depressing. I decided enough was enough. This wasn’t the life I wanted to live! I knew I had a greater purpose, and a passion inside me (for writing) that if I left unfulfilled, I would regret with all my heart come the end of my days. I decided to put passion before paycheck and I made the necessary changes to accommodate my new life (not easy, but when is anything worth fighting for easy?) When all said and done, I don’t want to simply exist, I want to really live - to not just survive, but thrive! It’s important not just for me, but for me children too - I want them to see me happy, and to show them that life is meant for enjoying. I want to lead by example and demonstrate that it’s more important to be happy and stay true to yourself, rather than chasing money or status.
Over the last 6 months I’ve been working hard to carve out the life I truly want to live. It takes conscious effort sometimes and it hasn’t just fallen into my lap (I’ve worked damn hard over the last 15 years and that has partly enabled me to do what I’m doing now). I’ve had to make calculated decisions (some really bloody scary) such as closing the door on a successful, financially lucrative business. I’ve had to reinvent myself, make sacrifices, and take a step (and by step I mean massive fucking leap) in a totally new direction.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” ~ Maya Angelou
It’s taught me so much (and I’m still learning every day) about what’s really important in life. I’ve summed up what I believe are the TOP TEN most important things in life, in no particular order of importance. As with everything else, what matters more to one person will differ greatly from what matters to another. This is just my personal opinion.
1. SELF LOVE
Getting to know yourself, love yourself, accept yourself and respect yourself (unconditionally) is one of the most valuable things we can ever do. As busy women and mums, we can easily forget who we are as individuals. We’re so busy looking after everyone else and doing everything else, we can easily forget about our own needs and wants, whether that’s everyday / immediate needs, or long term life goals / ambitions. We can be so critical of ourselves, comparing ourselves to everyone else (in the office, at the school gates, on social media), and it’s not uncommon to feel like we’re not good enough, we’re not doing enough, being enough, giving enough. It’s vital that we start adopting a more positive view of ourselves and realise that actually, we are already (more than) good enough!
People treat you how they see you treat yourself, so treat yourself well, respect yourself, and don’t accept anything less from other people. We frequently make choices based on other people’s expectations of us rather than doing what truly feels right for us, so it’s a good idea to set boundaries and stop people pleasing (don’t be afraid of the word no), and stay true to yourself and your values. All too often we put other people’s needs before our own, and we get pushed further and further down the list of priorities. Our self confidence (and perhaps self respect?) dwindles, and the thought of doing something for ourselves seems selfish or self indulgent. I can tell you however, it’s not - self care is absolutely essential for our mental, emotional and physical health. To look after ourselves first is the best thing we can do for others (you’ve heard of the phrase you can’t pour from an empty jug?), well we have to fill our own cup up first, to ensure we can continue to keep the plates spinning and look after every buggar else. So, self love - get to know yourself; get to know exactly who you are; get to know what you want and what your dream life looks like; and start doing more of the things you enjoy.
“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things” ~ Kenneth Branagh
I’m sure most of us have been guilty of this at some point - we take our health / body for granted and just expect it to be on point - diligently functioning, forever on duty, interminable, unfailing - no matter how we abuse it. We run ourselves ragged juggling work and home lives, adhering to our crazy busy schedules, stretching ourselves too thin, yet we expect our mind and body to just keep going, to push through. We leave little to no time for rest and relaxation, time out, or self care. We start to feel run down, burnt out, exhausted even, but we force ourselves to keep going. We feel down, overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, but we just tell ourselves to man up and get our acts together. We’re tired, we drink more coffee, and so it goes on.
Often we don’t realise how valuable our health is unless we lose it - for example when we become ill, have a health scare or even lose someone we know or love. Good health is undoubtedly one of our most precious possessions - a healthy mind, a healthy body (inside and out) and a happy heart. If we’ve got all these we are truly blessed. So fall in love with taking care of yourself. Love yourself and respect yourself enough to want to be the healthiest version of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Drink lots of water. Cut back on harmful foods, drinks, and harmful habits. Get lots of rest. Take time out. Get unplugged. Prioritise self care. Keeping yourself healthy is one of the best things you can do, not just for yourself, but for your family too. It’s time to respect your health - every part of it!
“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything. Anything else you desire, can be acquired, but if you haven’t got your health to start with, you’re pretty screwed” ~ Fran Grant
I’m learning how vital it is to treasure those who matter. Juggling work and family, or just family, can be tough going. Being a mum is hard work, and you start thinking that if one more person says “Enjoy this time now, it’ll go so fast” (when you’ve had approximately 4 hours sleep in the last 3 years) you’ll poke them in the eye. But it’s true - the days can feel long (God they’re fucking long) and somewhat transactional, but the years are short. We’ll look back and regret not spending this time with them, if we waste it. My eldest is 8 years old now, and sometimes it really scares me how quickly these years have gone. I’ve often been so busy cooking, cleaning, tidying up, preparing yet another snack, my default reply to “Mummy will you come and do this with me…” has been “I’m busy” or “Maybe later!” I’m making a conscious effort to really be present with my boys now - to sit down and read a story, do some drawing, or watch them put on another show.
“To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today” ~ Barbara Johnson
Partners / husbands often get pushed to the bottom of the list. You’re too full up - work, kids, looking after the house, playing chief cook and bottle washer. I used to describe my life as a pie - three quarters of the pie represented the kids, a large slice would then be apportioned to work, another slice dedicated to the home. There was never a slice left for me, so there definitely wasn’t a slice left for my husband! I’ve learned after last years events however that it’s imperative to invest in your relationship with your partner / hubby, even if it’s just setting aside one evening a week to watch a movie / have dinner together.
As we get older, it’s not uncommon for old friendships to fizzle out, and we can be too busy or too tired to maintain or invest in our current friendships (once I’m back from the school run and in my pj’s - and once that bra’s off - there’s no going out for me!) But I know now that it’s so important to water your friendships. I learned when I went through the separation who my friends were, and I couldn’t have gone through it without them.
Finally - family. They can get neglected until you need them, or someone gets sick. They take the shit you throw at them when you’re stressed, they put up with your stroppiness, and they don’t hold it against you when you cancel your meetups or forget to return their calls. And when the chips are down they’re the ones that will fight through hell and high water for you (I learned that too). Having your family, your blood (whether there’s three of them or thirty) who will always have your back, is so precious. So invest in the relationships and friendships that truly matter to you. You’ll miss them if they go.
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching – they are your family” ~ Jim Butcher
Love yourself. Love your family. Love your partner. Love your children. Love the world around you, and love everyone in it. Do more of what you love. Short and sweet. The giving and receiving of love makes the world go around.
“There is only one happiness in life – to love and to be loved” ~ George Sand
5. HAPPINESS & CONTENTMENT
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking” ~ Marcus Aurelius
Happiness is a choice. It doesn’t mean every single day is going to be great, or that our lives will be perfect, but I do believe we can choose happiness, and allow it to be part of our everyday lives. I truly believe that happiness is within, it’s not something that can be pursued or bought although, I know first hand, it’s an effort to dig deep and find it sometimes. Many of us (myself included) can often be found guilty of succumbing to Destination Addiction - the belief that happiness is the destination, rather than in the journey itself. The belief that your marriage will get better when you relocate; you’ll be happier when you get back to work, get back to a size 8, get your new car, reach that target; you’ll be satisfied when reach the bottom of the laundry basket etc etc.
“Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are” ~ Dr. Robert Holden
I truly believe happiness comes from gratitude. From wanting and loving what we already have. As they say, it’s not happy people that are thankful, it’s thankful people that are happy! Life is happening right now, so do something every day for you, something that makes you happy. What is life if you’re not enjoying it? It’s not meant to be an endurance test!
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy” ~ Dalai Lama
It’s impossible to be miserable if you’re practising gratitude, and there is always something to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to remember and acknowledge the things in life you are truly thankful for, not just the big things (houses, holidays) but the daily things we can take for granted such as our health, the roof over our heads, running water, food, the love of our kids).
“When you arise in the morning think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love” ~ Marcus Aurelius
“Don’t die with your music still in you” ~ Wayne Dyer
You’ve heard people harp on about ‘your purpose’ or ‘your calling’ or ‘following your dreams’. Not everyone feels like they have a true calling, but some do, whether that’s writing, singing, playing music, teaching, campaigning for women's rights, fighting animal cruelty… I’ve always known in my heart that I wanted to write for a living - since I was old enough to read books and hold a pen! I’ve suppressed it over the years due to a busy career, bringing up babies etc, but it’s always been there, and it’s one of the few things in my life I’ve been unequivocally certain about. Now I’m following my own path it feels like the universe is carrying me gently along, as opposed to the uphill struggle (read, pissing against the wind) that was my old life. There’s no greater feeling than to have a purpose, a reason to be here on earth, so remember what yours is, believe in it, run like hell towards it, and never give up on it.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined” ~ Henry David Thoreau
8. FREEDOM AND TIME
My time is sacred, and I appreciate it now more than ever. Some people rush around like headless chickens, stressed, from one chore to another, complaining they “just don’t have time”. We all have the same amount of time We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. I used to think being busy was a marker of success. I would say yes to everything - my calendar was chock full with commitments I didn’t want to fulfil - and I’d fit everything in somehow. It left no time for things I would have much preferred to do. Now I’ve taken back control of my calendar and reclaimed my time, I choose what I want to spend my time doing (and I leave out or say no to the stuff that I don’t want to do). For every one thing you say yes to you’re saying no to something else, so be selective, choose what you want to spend time on and who you want to spend it with. Protect your time, once its gone its gone. I’m not suggesting you quit your job tomorrow or stop cooking for your kids - there are certain things we will still have to do, it’s all about identifying the things we really don’t have to do. There’s a useful exercise I did a while back - take a piece of paper and list every single thing you do in a day, from doing the school run, going to the supermarket, meeting a client for dinner, running an errand - absolutely everything. Take a yellow highlighter and highlight everything on that list that you don’t enjoy, or that brings you stress, anxiety, resentment etc. Now take a pink pen and highlight all the things you DO enjoy. The tasks highlighted in yellow that you absolutely, categorically (life or death or don’t pay the rent) have to do - they stay put obviously. The things you could say no to (and the world wouldn’t stop spinning) - for the love of God stop doing them. Be brutal and put yourself first - do less of the yellow stuff, and more of the pink stuff.
“Your time is so precious! Every minute, hour, day you have on this planet counts, and it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re actually enjoying it” ~ Fran Grant
9. HOBBIES AND PASSIONS
Hobbies and passions are so underrated! I know so many people (I was one of them) who don’t prioritise time for hobbies and things they enjoy, because their lives are too busy with work, family, chores… life isn’t meant to be spent working 24/7 or filling it up with other un-enjoyable tasks, it’s meant to be enjoyed! Don’t deprive yourself of the things you love or the things you want to do - yoga, dancing, creative writing, drawing, baking, playing music, horse riding, running, reading, travel… indulging in pastimes is enriching in so many ways, and doing the things you love makes life worth living.
“When life drags you down, your passions will lift you back up again” ~ Fran Grant
10. GIVING BACK
I truly believe one of the best things we can do is to help others, to lighten other people’s burdens, and to make a difference in their lives. As Anne Frank wrote in her diary - no one became poor by giving! There’s no better feeling than to help someone, whether that’s helping a neighbour or a friend or supporting a charity you’re passionate about. Personally I’m immensely passionate about supporting our local food bank as there are too many people who don’t have the basics that we take for granted. The happiest people are the ones who give more, rather than the ones who are interested only in accumulating wealth or material objects for themselves. Looking after and respecting the world we live in and our environment is also now very high on my list of priorities. We live on this earth rent free, and we need to care for it and respect it!
“It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” ~ Albert Einstein.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. I’d love to hear your thoughts - what are the most important things in your life? Has it changed over the years? Please leave a comment below.
Much love, Fran xxx
If you liked this you may also like:
Health is the New Wealth
The importance of giving at Xmas
Speaking out to tackle hunger issues
How to stop being a people pleaser (and learn to say no)
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x