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?

 

What Do You Wish People Knew About You?

Suppose you make a new acquaintance at a social gathering. What is the one thing you would like that person to understand about you? Is there some essential bit of information that defines you as a person?

Maybe it is your chosen profession, or a particular hobby you enjoy. Maybe you feel you are defined by your belief on some topic, or your political leanings. Some people seem to think their musical tastes, or the movies they enjoy, is important to understanding who they are.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘What gives a person value?’


Similarly, even people who have known you for a long time may not know the real you. Do you ever feel as if there is a facet of your personality hidden from your friends and family? That there is something you know about yourself that others don’t seem to understand?

If you could control how others saw you, what would you choose to emphasize? What do you wish people knew about you?

Related questions: Why do we care what strangers think of us? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? How do you think others see you?

Chicken Or Egg?

As the classic head-scratcher goes, an egg can only be laid by a chicken, but a chicken must have hatched from an egg. Which came first?

What are other examples of cyclical paradoxes?

Share why if you wish.

Chicken Or Egg?
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What Is Your Bubble?

It is only natural that we all live in our own little news bubble. Opinions we hear tend to be like ours, and the result is an echo chamber repeating what we already know.

However, knowing that you live in a bubble, and trying to be aware of other bubbles, is key to empathizing with others. You have to know what people think, and why they think it, if you want to have hope of having a constructive conversation.

How did we get here?

How we grow our bubbles seems pretty logical. Our friends, family, and neighbors share what information and news that they know. They share with us their own opinions, and you can’t help but be influenced by that.

Other people, with differing views, might live far away, or you don’t come into contact with them. For instance, they might be separated from you geographically, or socioeconomically, or politically.

How you get out of a your own news silo, or expand it, is a little less clear. For example, you might seek out other news sources, or think about what voices are missing among your friends and family, and try to add them. This is not easy.

Unfortunately, the current environment makes it even harder. As a society, we are growing ever more polarized. Entire counties and even states are deemed to be one type of political party. In addition, the wealth gap continues to grow. Compromise is seen as a dirty word, rather than a way to find common ground.

Now what?

Despite the difficulty, it can be very rewarding. It is possible to understand what fears people have. Why they spend, vote, and act the way that they do. Once you know this, it will be easier to address these concerns and win them over.

Moreover, you can’t expect others to step outside their bubble if you aren’t willing to do it yourself.

None of this, though, can be done if you don’t understand the bubble that you inhabit. After all, do you know your internal biases and assumptions? Is it a priority of yours to know people who disagree with you? What is your bubble?

Related questions: How can we encourage meaningful conversation? How do you know who to trust? What are you doing to make the world a better place? How can we become better listeners? What is necessary to change your mind?