What Do You Do That Matters?

It is up to each person to decide what is important and what is not. Not everything you do has to be something that matters. However, to lead a meaningful life, you must do some important things.

There are, of course, many different ways of measuring what matters.

One way is to contribute to your community. You might do this through the job that you have, through your relationship with your neighbors, or some volunteer effort. It might be important to you to be an upstanding citizen.

Another way is to recognize and develop your own skills and strengths. That might mean taking classes, being introspective, or seeing a therapist. Being a good person might be what matters to you. Are you hard-working, innovative, or punctual? Or one of many, many other traits?

Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’

Similarly, how you interact with loved ones may matter the most to you. It might be important to be a good parent to your child or children. Perhaps you are the fun cousin, or the consummate host.

In addition, there are several other ways you can do something that matters to you. And, of course, multiple things can matter to you at the same time.

What matters to you, and what do you do to show it? What do you think is the relationship between what you think is important, and the actions that you take? How might you increase the number of meaningful things you do?

Related questions: What is important? What are you doing to make the world a better place? How do you determine what matters? Everything matters or nothing matters?



3 thoughts on “What Do You Do That Matters?”

  1. While I may do many things I hope matter in some way, I have four priorities:
    • Being the best spouse possible.
    • Fighting for housing justice and ending homelessness.
    • Endng the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illnesses.
    • Inspiring more people to grow some of their own food.

    Below is a bit more about each.

    The first, most important, and least written on this website is that I try to be the best spouse possible. My relationship with my wife, for many reasons, is crucial. Here, I’ll just note that my home life provides me the fuel to do anything else with the commitment needed. Talks with Rebecca give me a fresh perspective I often try to incorporate as my own. When I do, I become a healthier and happier person. Regular and deep conversations with her help me refuel to help contribute to the change I want to see in the world.

    Second, I have spent almost all of my 31-year activist- and professional advocacy-life working to end poverty, focusing mostly on housing justice and an end to homelessness. Some say there will always be poverty. Perhaps. But while I know that we will always have poorer people than others in our current system, the degree of poverty is a malleable situation. Activism and advocacy to change the level of poverty people experience are effective in reducing the pain of living on the poorer end of the income and wealth continuum. Old age used to be a sentence to poverty for most; Social Security — a long-fought-for entitlement — significantly changed the level of poverty a greater number of our elders experience. America used to have many children living in a degree of poverty so deep that they faced extreme malnutrition — like, swollen empty bellies-type malnutrition. While childhood malnutrition is still a significant issue, it is not nearly as much as it was only 60 years ago. Federal food assistance — again, fought for by activists and advocates for a long time — played a significant role in providing nutritious food to those who needed it. I believe something similar is possible for housing justice. I know we can end extended periods of homelessness. I also believe we can build more housing and combine it with providing millions of additional subsidies and (when needed) services to help nearly everyone faced with homelessness a safe, secure, and affordable place to call home.

    Third, we can end the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness while improving the services available for those who need help. I have used my own life experience to contribute to this cause. Yes, it’s put me in vulnerable positions sometimes. But I sincerely believe that if society was more open about this set of health problems, we could talk about mental health the way we regularly talk about and work to address physical health issues. As for my minor contribution — by sharing my own experiences — I want to help others who struggle to know that they are not alone. For loved ones of some who suffer, I want them to catch a glimpse (though my example) of what living with Anxiety and/or Depression feels like. I also want more people to have hope that their chronic struggles can often be made better through talk therapy and (often) medication.

    Lastly, I want to be a part of inspiring people to grow some of their own food, with a preference for growing organically and with heirlooms — to preserve the world’s rich (but diminishing) seed heritage. I write and take pictures of the beautiful vegetables growing in my garden. Periodically, I write about how gardening feeds my body and soul and often helps improve my mental health. And, whenever someone has a gardening question — especially how to start — I’m there for them. Why? Because our food system is in a very precarious place. Pests adapt to pesticides. Monocultures may fall victim to droughts or pests. Or our food supply chain could face disruption for a number of reasons. Truth be told, I want Americans to participate in a third, and permanent, round of Victory Gardens. During WWI and WWII with informational assistance provided by the federal government and to help respond to food rationing, many households in this nation grew gardens. In fact, it is estimated that 40 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the country during that time came from home gardens. This gives me hope.

    Having more people do things that matter gives me hope too.

  2. I’m an advocate for food justice and food sovereignty. I believe that all people have the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and in their right to define their own food and agriculture system.
    I advocate for less waste in the food system and to get food that is unsellable, yet perfectly safe and edible, into the hands of those that need it most.
    I grow and donate food and food producing plants for my neighbors in need.
    I advocate for the growing of heirloom and open pollinated foods and for seed saving.
    I help people to learn how to grow and preserve food as well as how to prepare and fully utilize food to reduce waste.

  3. During this chapter in my life, I am my husband’s primary caretaker.
    This involves an incredible amount of time and patience. Twenty four hours a day, I have committed my self to do my best to prevent him from going to a nursing home.
    To keep the quality of life up to standards any human being would want during their final season of life.
    Right now, this is what matters to me most.

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