What matters in life (and what doesn’t)

I’m probably too young to be writing on this topic but observing countless souls distressed by daily life made me think hard on what is that really matters in life. Undoubtedly, there are happy and sad phases and that’s part-and-parcel of life. But what I’m really bothered about is general, daily bitching about how miserable one’s life has become. You find people complaining about work, commute, relationships, other people’s attitudes & personalities, neighbor’s barking dog, lack of parking space, and, heck, some people also feel stressed about how they are unable to install latest iPhone update. Yes, I’m concerned about those people. Are these things really worth stressing about? Allow me to analyze.

What doesn’t matter in life

Let’s start off by observing what doesn’t matter in life and why. Life would be much better and satisfying if everyone could do away with (or at least de-prioritizes following) two aspects:


  • Material possessions: countless sages have professed it and I completely with them that material possessions are source of most of the stress we face in our daily lives. Modern technology (and compulsion to keep up with it) only makes it much worse. Your car radiator broke down, your phone screen got a crack, you are unable to install USB drivers, or your expensive massage chair needs maintenance. Possessions end up taking over your daily life and you don’t even realize that. Wouldn’t you be much happier and free if you need not bother about constant purchasing, maintaining and discarding of possessions? I’m not advocating complete asceticism but my point here is that it is OK to be still using Windows 98. It is OK to travel by bus or taxi, and not having that fancy car. It is even OK if you don’t posses a phone (or if you have poor network provider, like mine — MTNL). It is OK to be like a free bird without any heavy baggage of material possessions.
  • Ego: the number 1 stress factor you have in your life is no-one but you. The compulsive drive to prove yourself right (and others wrong), the obsession with (financially) outdoing your peers, neighbors & friends, the depression about how you couldn’t score 100% in math exam, the fights over how the wall is painted with the wrong shade of blue, and anger over how a friend misplaced your favorite book. Source of tension and stress in all these situations is not society or the other person you are fighting with, but it is you. In long run, do these little ego fights really matter? Are you enriching your life by these ego fights where either you or someone else ends up feeling bad? Wouldn’t it be much better for all if you started giving less importance to yourself? Maybe it is hard, but just try living a day making yourself unimportant and your life will be much more satisfying (as you can kick your ego aside and you can focus on what really matters in life — see below).

What matters in life

I have observed that following two aspects enrich one’s life and makes it worth living. What are these two things that matter in life?


  • Experiences: seeking out new experiences in life is one of the best ways to be alive. Experiences excite, teach and rejuvenate you. Unlike material possessions, the memories, stories and photographs of these experiences will never fade away and certainly don’t require an upkeep. Have you ever thought of travelling the world? If not, do it! (Budget’s not a constraint). Learn a new language. Go bungee jumping. Do hitch-hiking. Start a new charity organization. Try new, exotic cuisines. There are literally millions of different types of experiences that you can seep in and most don’t take bagful of money. Usually, under false pretense of being busy in daily humdrum, it is your ego that prevents you from exposing yourself to different types of experiences, and hence doesn’t let you mature you as a person and live life to its fullest. The best part about these experiences is that you get to meet many interesting people, some of whom can also become lifelong friends and partners. This brings us to next point.
  • Relationships: treasuring and maintaing relationships you have with your parents, friends, siblings, spouses, children and even neighbours is one of the most satisfying aspects of life. Humans need other humans in order to stay sane and to derive joy out of life. A loner can easily drive himself crazy. But, unfortunately, due to ego, sometimes we are rash with these relationships and end up hurting people. Even ignoring people can lead to isolation or broken relationships and that’s why it is important to realize that the relationships you have with other people are much more important than yourself (this realization is for your own sake and happiness, since you depend on other people. Try living completely alone!). Doesn’t joy and happiness become real only if you have other people to share it with? Can you be happy all by yourself? Nope! So, leave your ego aside and try to strengthen the relationships you have. When you come back from a trip to Caribbean, make sure you have someone to share your experiences with (and no, I don’t mean your Facebook friends)!

As usual, comments welcome!


  1. Good article. Would like to comment on your assertion “Can you be happy all by yourself ? Nope”.

    Well, just try out that also. It would certainly be a different and good experience.

  2. The point you make about ego are nothing different than living the life without any ambition. It’s the competition that thrives our lives. It’s the lack of ability to win those ego fights what makes our lives sad and empty.

    Try winning some, not whinning some. No pizza-with-egg-and-lichee will make up for lost street races or getting beaten up.

    Being happy by not being ambitions and by not reaching for your goals is like being rich by “not needing all those things”. You ultimately are a ambitionless bum.

    Seriously, consider winning not walking away from fights.

  3. Great article, problem is people tend to ‘live in the future’, they think about success only occurs when they achieve their goals but the process is the most important, the steps they’re taking to get there and they should be enjoyed ‘in the now’ rather than worrying about the future all the time

  4. I’m afraid to say that the second I saw the two things you want removed (or reduced), I lost interest in this article. Nothing new or original – no understanding of basic human psychology. In general, telling people not to do things which have an evolutionary psychological basis for existing so prominently is just pointless. People, the majority, not the occasional strong-willed specimen, are simply not in a position to use introspection in order to recognise how these areas affect them in the first place, let alone have the perceived ability to do anything about it.
    In general, if you come up with an idea to make things better that has a fundamental aspect of requiring people to change their very unconcious nature, then you’re on the wrong track. Try looking for ways to improve peoples’ lives that requires only small, minimal changes, with the core changes being made externally to them.
    There are always exception who can “prove me wrong” – yet they’re exceptions for a reason.

  5. true happiness comes when you are not dependent on the world.

    The world is in a constant flux of change. creation, preservation and destruction. This is true for people, the material world and our mind and other peoples minds.

    When we are attached to the world — we are surely to be stressed or disappointed since it changes. But our expectations to the world don’t.

    Therefore to be truly happy we need to be detached from the world –rather than reliant on it.

  6. Congratz for this great post, and I agree with your points.

    Certainly it’s a topic that have been discussed in many other blogs, but I’ve never read anyone that focused on ego, and this fact did this post really interesting.


  7. It seems you have exponentially arrived at something or rather some things that have been discussed, dissected, reinforced, argued, debate across all the wisdom traditions, and nowadays “lifestyle design” mavericks.

    I would be curious to know
    1> How you balance the realization on display here with the demands of your startup, what pulls and what pushes etc
    2> As long as we are not being renunciates, we are all going to be embedded in a socio-culturo-politico-relational matrix. As Sartre heaved “Hell is other people”….
    How do you live your principles when the close ones around you might not want to leave by them?

    Maybe i can request a follow-up post on 1?

  8. When i was younger i thought it was all about objects, now i refrain from buying something if i feel that i really dont need it.

    I very much agree, experiences and relationships are what matter.

    Ive known people who change their phone 4 times in a year, just to keep up, or because they were bored with the last one, clearly they dont find happiness from endless spending.

  9. “Humans need other humans in order to stay sane and to derive joy out of life. A loner can easily drive himself crazy.”

    Two sentences blissfully devoid of both logic and evidence.

    You sound naieve.

    You seem to presume that other people are nice and want to treat you nice. This is patently false: trying walking in an urban park at 2am. You’ll be ripped apart by others happy to teach you a, “New experience.”

    Relationship? I’m in a relationship with a woman and can’t get out. She blazes into the most obscene rage when I suggest that we break up. Result? Being the coward that I am, I stick it out. I let time pass. She thinks I love her; she sees no contradiction whatsoever in her expecting love from me while simultaneously refusing to allow me out of this relationship. More time passes. She wants a child. She can’t see that the longer she forces me to be with her, the more her chances of having a baby are reduced. Can I tell her that I don’t want a baby? Nope. She goes demented.

    Relationship???? A source of happiness?????

    “Doesn’t joy and happiness become real only if you have other people to share it with? Can you be happy all by yourself? Nope!”

    More ridiculous hyper-innocence. Doesn’t pain and suffering become real only if you have other people to share it with?

    Can you be happy all by yourself? Complete isolation, admittedly, would be difficult. I’d have to hunt animals to live and wear bear-skins in Winter. Highly inconvenient: but are others the source of happiness? Wake up. The world’s filled with horrible people out to crush you.

    Bring on the asteroid.

  10. need to say I realized something again today. Thanks for your words. Hope I can accept and implement same on me.


  11. A person had actually taken this idea up and left all his material possessions behind and travelled around the world with just a backpack of stuff to see what life is all about minus all the possessions. You should read about him: http://www.gauravnomics.com/ , if you are interested.

  12. Paras, like you I am also on a journey to discover life.

    While your first two bullets on what doesn’t matter in life are spot on, I think the other two I.e. What matters are naive.

    Just like lesser material possessions, lesser no. Of relationships would give you less stress. Relationships are built on quid pro quo. You help me today and I would help you tomorrow. Stress.

  13. @nkchopra an individual might have an ego through feeling insecure, old age might help remedy that, often people become more comfortable with themselves as they get older, maybe feeling less reason to act a particular way, so i think that maturing might help a person shed their ego.

  14. Your post has causes many people to give their perception about life. 🙂 great post, u shall think critically with more opinions given by others. Improvisation. What about religion and races? I think tht’s somewhat a big issue to influence the changes of human history. Materials, some people like to give and receive it knowning them as expression of their love language. If I’m a painter, I would make a living selling arts and my creativeness, in return I get to buy stg I need or want. Everyone has their desire. I agree relationship and experiences are indeed important. How about acknowledge God’s magnificinet creation and his presence? As u said, enjoy life. All things human made up or the earth made up, are from one source. Human make things complicated, created many job opportunities, many things, sometimes I feel we r like chasing our own shadow, chasing after what we have all created in the world. Oh well, we are all human not omnipotent and omniscient being.

  15. I agree w/the article. Well said 2. Martin, I disagree w/U. One’s greatest competition should be w/one’s self, after all only U can utilize your full potential. Besides U can only be yourself so to challange another is pointless. As for material things, I believe, “The 1 w/the most is he who needs the least”. Not sure if U R mature enough to get that yet. I bet your part of the, “The 1 who dies w/the most toys wins,” society. To that I reply,”The 1 who dies w/the the most toys will’s (gives away) the most.” I always was on the practicle side.

  16. Hi Paras,

    Lovely article, but there’s one thing I want to ask. You write about not indulging in ego-fights. But, when you avoid these ego-fights, and make other people feel more important than yourself, you tend to get dominated by others. Could you tell me how to avoid ego-fights without being dominated and driven by others, and at the same time, without hurting others’ feelings?

    Thanks in Advance!

  17. I ran across your blog. I recently lost my husband of 31 years and I recently turned 51. I have worked all my life it seems and at the time in life when my husband and I
    Could enjoy things more he isn’t here I can tell you when the most important thing in your life is gone it really doesn’t matter about ego or material possessions. My life doesn’t really doesn’t have much direction right now and I typed in the question what matters in life. I don’t know that any thing does or ever will again. Who has the most expensive house, car, etc doesn’t matter….who is the most educated or prettiest doesn’t matter. None of it does. That funeral car can’t pull a u-haul trailer behind it!!

  18. So happy to have found this blog. Read so many of your posts in last 2 days and I love how your posts have helped me rethink my approach on the rat race I am after and reconsider my ego and understand how it is costing me almost everything.

    Wonder, why you have stopped blogging? VWO keeps you busy yes. But didn’t you say writing makes you happy? 🙂 Why stop?

  19. The best advice that my father has given me, is to nurture our relationships, as it is the only thing one can take away from this world. Also, many religious books just want to tell only one thing, that is to simply our life from this material possessions.
    Great post.

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