Minimalism: Identify What’s Important

As technology and the pace of modern life seemingly keeps picking up speed, how do you ensure you have time for everything that matters? A few simple questions can help you find the answer.

A while back I was thinking about my current job/career and wondering if I was on the path I wanted to be. (It’s important to step back and review your life and work to ensure you are doing what you want every so often). So I was taking some time to do a little reflection and research online to find ways to see if what I was doing really fit with my skills and talents. However in the process I found a nifty exercise that was developed to help identify strengths and expertise related to your job/career that also does a pretty fantastic job of helping you identify what’s most important to you with the right framing. As I found this extremely eye opening, I have taken this process a step further and created a new set of questions that focus entirely on what you enjoy and how much it plays a role in your life so you can see better how often you do what you love.

The original exercise

All credit goes to Bruce Achterberg, who answered the following question on Quora: “How do I know my strengths or expertise (relative to career or field)?“. His answer includes a reference to a “flower exercise” which is a little different from the list of questions he included in his response. His response included the following:

To discover your interests, make a list of:

  • Work you’ve done that you’ve really enjoyed or found interesting
  • Any hobbies or interests you already know of
  • Clubs and groups you’ve joined because you genuinely wanted to
  • Books and articles you’ve read that you found really interesting (ask “why did I find them so interesting?)
  • Websites you commonly look at
  • People you feel drawn to. Is there anything about them in particular that you feel drawn to? Name it.

Then look over what you wrote and look for patterns. What crops up again and again?

Write down the top 3 or 5 things that show up again and again, with what shows up most often at the top. [1]

That should give you a pretty good idea of your interests. And you’ll know because when you read your final list, you’ll resonate with the answers.

So at this point I had answered the questions, however as I started looking over the results I immediately noticed something very concerning on the second question. I had a decent list of hobbies and interests however I hadn’t actually pursued most of them in months and in a few cases YEARS. How is it that I have hobbies and interests that I have ignored for so long if they still resonate with me that much to list them? I reviewed the other questions then with this frame of mind wondering if there are other areas that I had genuine interests in but have continually put on the back burner. With that I was done with career reflection and immediately diving into personal self reflection (which I feel comes first).

So I decided to make a new list of questions that really focuses on this aspect and share them with you in hopes that it can be a stepping stone for you to craft a more deliberate and meaningful life. I feel this is something everyone should do as we have a limited amount of time in life and we shouldn’t waste it doing things that don’t enrich our lives. I asked one of my friends to do a similar exercise and he was rather surprised at how he had the same situation as myself. He identified many interests and things he liked to do but it had been quite some time since he had done any of them. So I hope you can find this useful as well.

The adjusted exercise

So to find out what’s most important to you and how well they play a role in your life complete the exercise below:

Answer the following questions:

  • What are your hobbies and interests?
  • What activities do you enjoy?
  • What events, gatherings or group activities do you enjoy?
  • What would you do if you no longer had to work for a living?
  • What are your dreams and goals?

Once you answer these questions, now review each answer and ask the following:

  • When was the last time I took part in this hobby, interest, activity, gathering etc?
  • Am I doing this hobby, interest, activity, gathering etc as often as I would like?
  • What barriers are there that prevent me from doing this interest, activity, etc as much as I want to?
  • What am I filling my time with instead of the items on this list?
  • Is my time is being filled with things not in this list? If so, what are they why are they taking priority?
  • What do I really need to start working on my dreams/goals? (Be realistic, and most likely much less than you think.)
  • How can I start working on what I would do if money was not a concern?
  • What can I do to overcome the barriers that prevent me from doing this hobby, interest, activity etc?

Once you have answered these questions for each of the original questions you should now have a list of actionable items that you can use to immediately start working on incorporating more of what’s important yo you into your life.

If there are barriers that don’t appear to be able to be overcome it may be time to get creative and think of ways you may be able to incorporate them into your other commitments. It would not be a happy and fulfilling life to spend most of your existence doing things you don’t enjoy. So take this list and work on it daily to help build them into habits which will eventually turn into a way of life.


This exercise will hopefully have helped you identify what you find important and what is and is not working for you in living the life you want. Also it should give you some ideas on how to better include these things into your life. I find this exercise and personal reflection to be a very important starting point of crafting a happy and fulfilling life. Is this the only thing you need to do? No, as what you do for your job/career should also fall within these lines. To ensure your job/career fits into your life’s interest and goals, I think the original exercise and question on Quora can help get you get jump started. However I will personally need to revisit that in the future once I get my hobbies and interests better integrated into my life.

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