How Do You Determine What Matters?

Most people strive to live a life that has meaning; a life that matters. Key to that end, then, is figuring out just what matters in the first place.

This question follows up on this week’s Throwdown Thursday question: Everything Matters or Nothing Matters. As with many Thursday questions, the answer likely falls somewhere between the two extremes. In this case, there are some things that matter, and some things that don’t.

If that is true, the challenge lies in determining which of your actions fall into which of the two categories. You probably don’t want to spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions that don’t matter. Similarly, you do want to put in the time and effort to make the right call on something that is meaningful.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But how to decide between them? One way might be to lump all the small decisions — what to wear, what to eat, when to go to bed, and so on — as being inconsequential. The big decisions — where to go to college, who to marry, which house to buy, whether to have kids — are meaningful.

There are a few problems with this. One is that adding up a bunch of small decisions can equal a big decision. Constantly being late for work (a small decision) day after day may mean you lose your job (a big outcome). And even a small decision can have a big impact. If you trace back the biggest, most important decisions in your life, often they come from small choices we made.

But it is important that we recognize what matters and what doesn’t. Or is it? Maybe we treat every decision as one that matters. Or might that leave your wracked with indecision, stressing over the potential consequences of everything you do?

How do you determine what matters?

Related questions: What is important? How can we turn ideas into actions? How much power does an individual have? What deserves your attention?

 

1 thought on “How Do You Determine What Matters?”

  1. Opportunities, I think, actually matter to me if they are consistent with my values, and I am willing to form habits or regularly scheduled times for them to happen. Things are significant to me if they bring me joy or some other healthy, strong emotion. Finally, I may have to give if people matter to me some more thought. However, my first instinct is that they really count if I can jump into a conversation with them no matter how long it’s been since I last interacted with them or if I am committed to working through the awkwardness of however long small talk needs to happen before I sink into a real heart-to-heart.

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