Updated: Mar 14, 2022
Let’s talk about mattering. Something that’s not talked about much, as if it doesn’t...matter. But this issue is really huge. Our life is built out of the things that matter to us. Our inner lives are strengthened or depleted to the extent that we feel we do or do not matter to others. So let’s open this up.
As far as the things that matter to us is concerned, it should be simple. The more something matters to us, the more that’s reflected in our lives. What we do, how we spend our time and money and energy, will reflect what really matters to us.
Or so you’d think. So let me ask you. How does what you do line up with what matters to you? For example, think of all the things you do because they are urgent. That you go crazy trying to get done. The laundry. The shopping. The report for work. Driving the kids somewhere.
Now think of the things that are most important to you. That you care about the most and that might make the biggest difference in your life. Getting fit. Going back to school.
For most of us, we do the urgent things, but the important things that aren’t urgent keep getting put off. Yeah, they matter—in fact, they are seen as possibly making all the difference—but they’re postponable, so there they sit on the backburner.
It gets worse. Most of us know what’s urgent for us to do. As of this moment, taxes will be due in 7 weeks. That’s getting to be urgent, and soon will be very urgent. But what’s really most important for you? What matters to you? Yes, I know, people always say family, career, health, and so on. But what about these things matters besides all the urgent things you’re already struggling to keep up with?
I work with a lot of CEOs. Now of course they are busy with a lot of important things, but most of these things are urgent. And guess what these men and women say gets the least of their attention? Time to sit and think about what it is that really matters. Do I have my priorities straight? What even ARE my priorities?
Here's another example of how we screw up thinking about and dealing with what matters. The trade-off between paying attention to your kids and to your marriage. Now of course both matter. But what most people don’t realize is that before you know it, your kids will grow up and leave home. Not only that, but during the time they’re with you they don’t need you as much as you’ve convinced yourself they do.
On the other hand, while you’ve been so busy pouring emotional and physical energy into parenting, your marriage has been wilting on the vine. What makes you think it’ll still be vital and alive when you come back to it after the kids have left home?
So be good parents, for sure. But it’s your marriage that should matter most, because that’s what you’ll be needing and wanting when the kids are gone.
Now for the other aspect of mattering. Feeling you matter to others. Want to kill someone, emotionally at least? Just give them the feeling that they don’t matter to anyone.
Now you might find this hard to believe, but a lot of adults with normal-seeming lives don’t feel they matter to anyone.
It’s true that sometimes people feel this way because they’re depressed. But lots of times they’re depressed because they feel this way, because that’s how they experience their lives. They may feel that the people in their lives—family and on the job—need them to keep the show running. But they don’t feel that they themselves matter. The other people just need a body to do the job. Anyone. But, they feel, “No one knows me, no one cares about me as I really am, no one wants to listen to me.” So they feel they don’t matter.
So WE feel we don’t matter.
Here’s what you need to do, starting now and continuing on, like, forever. Make sure you let everyone in your life—big and small—know they matter.
When your usual barista hands you your coffee, you can say, “Always a pleasure. You do such a great job.” Something like that.
You can ask people how things are going and really listen to their answers.
You can figure out what’s important to the people who are important to you and focus on that when you talk to them.
You can tell them often about the positive difference they make in your life. “So nice to see your sweet face.”
You can remember something about them that they care about.
There are millions of little ways to do this, and they all add up to conveying the sense that they matter. Do it. It’s like breathing life into someone.