Things That Matter … And Things That Don’t

Too many folks worry too much about things that don’t matter, and too little about things that do.

You know the type.

Thoughts come to mind of that irritating blather that gets worse with each passing year.  Those talking heads who ramble on with the latest talking points.  Cultural divisiveness.  Spats over things that are, in the broader scope, essentially meaningless.

It bugs me.  It irritates me.  In the end, does any of it matter?

Perhaps it’s time to talk about Things That Matter … And Things That Don’t.

Too many folks worry too much about things that don't matter, and too little about things that do. Click To Tweet

Things That Matter … And Things That Don’t

We’ve all heard the expression about “Making a Mountain Out of A Molehill”.  I like that saying, and find it appropriate for the many instances in my life where I worry too much about the things that don’t matter.

I wonder how many of us have gone through the trouble of Googling the definition of Molehill?  Not many, I suspect.  No worries, I went through the exercise for you, and present below the finding of my research:

The Definition Of Molehill

A small mound of earth.  I like that.  I have a few stubborn mole tunnels in my yard.  It’s fun to stomp on them, and feel that little tunnel collapse beneath your feet.

But do they really matter?


Personal Mountains, Personal Molehills

More important than the definition, however, is the question: How many of us have taken some time to think about our “Personal Molehills”.  You know, those things which aren’t very important to us, but still pop up in the front yard and steal our attention?   Further, how many of us have thought about our Personal Mountains?  Those BIG issues, which matter most to us?

A lot of things matter in this life. And a lot of things don't. It's important to know the difference. Click To Tweet

Things That Matter

As I’ve been working on this post, I’ve been building a list of things that matter.  I also started a list of things that don’t.  If you’ve never done the exercise, I encourage you to build your own lists.  It’s an interesting exercise and gives your brain something to think about.  Thinking is good.  If you haven’t done it lately, give it a try.

Here are some of the Things That Matter to me, pulled from my list in no particular order:

  • Family
  • Love
  • Respect
  • People
  • Integrity
  • Eternity
  • Spirituality
  • Security
  • Serious Illness
  • Friends

I thought a little longer on the topic, and came up with some that may not be as obvious:

  • Eyes
  • Faith
  • Freedom
  • Laughter
  • Mountains
  • Poverty
  • Honor
  • Contentment
  • Exploration
  • Heroes
  • Death

Things That Matter should be the things we focus on.  The things we seek to improve.  The things we talk about.

We Should.  But Do We?

They Matter.

Things That Don’t Matter

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the things that don’t matter.  You may take some offense at my list, especially if you’re one of the folks behind the irritating blather mentioned in my intro.  Putting all political correctness aside (hey, it’s MY list after all!), here’s some stuff that doesn’t matter:

  • Material Things
  • The Jones’
  • Television
  • Social Media
  • Vanity
  • Sports
  • Political Bickering
  • Hollywood
  • Comic Books
  • Hangnails
  • Office politics
  • Ego
  • Gossip
  • Popularity
  • The Past

Sure, sports is fun, but does it REALLY matter who won the Super Bowl last year?  Can you even remember?  The same goes for politics.  Sure, policy drives a lot of stuff in any country, but is it really worth the insane amount of blather that it generates?

Does It Really Matter?


A Focus On What Matters

As I look at my own life, I think I often have things upside down.  It seems the things that matter the most are, at times, the things that I think about least.  The things which matter least often seem to receive a disproportionate amount of my attention.

We Choose What We Think About.

Thoughts are powerful.  Thoughts lead to ideas, ideas to action, action to consequences.

We Choose What We Do With Our Time.

Where we spend our time has a direct result on the impact of our actions.

If our thoughts and actions have consequences, doesn’t it seem logical that we should think and act most on those Things That Matter the most to us?  Seems obvious, but I know in my own life it’s not always the case.

Be intentional, and choose to think more about the things that matter the most to you.  Spend more time in those areas that are most important to you, and less time in the things that aren’t.


An Intentional Life

6 months into my retirement, I’m trying to become more intentional with my life.  With my time.  With my thoughts.  With the Freedom I’ve earned through a 33-year commitment to Corporate America.

It’s time for me to choose what I want to do with my time.

You may want to consider doing the same.

A life lived intentionally is a life well lived. Focus more on the things that matter, and less on the things that don't. Click To Tweet

Being intentional in life means an increased focus on the things that matter, and a decrease on the things that don’t.  Each of us decide for ourselves what we spend our energy on.  It just seems right that the areas we deem as important should receive a higher allocation of our time.

I came across this quote in Collecting Wisdom as I was writing this post, and felt it was symbolic of recognizing Things That Matter:

“You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you.  You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish.  I have no responsiblity to be like they expect me to be.”  Richard Feynman


A Story That Matters

As I’ve focused on Things That Matter over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed more things which deserve my attention.  I’ve tried to be more intentional in reaching out to friends who are facing major health issues.  I’ve tried to listen more, and talk less.  I’m paying more attention to Things That Matter.

I connected with a reader named Boyd, and felt his story was worth sharing.  In 2011, Boyd was suffering some flu-like symptoms as he was preparing for a trip to Chicago. He got some bloodwork tests done, and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.  They did a bone marrow biopsy and found out that 80% of the white blood cells were cancerous.

He was given a 10% chance of survival.

Rather than give up, Boyd decided to fight.

His wife earns an honorable mention for finding the hospital which saved his life. He went through aggressive chemotherapy and was fortunate to find a “one in a million” match for a stem cell transplant. He now has the DNA stem cells of an American serviceman.  That man’s name is Nathan, and he’s recently returned to the USA after being stationed in Japan.  Boyd has a goal of meeting him in 2019 to say Thank You in person.

I hope he does.

Completing The Boston Marathon. It Matters.

In spite of living with many health complications from the chemotherapy and radiation including brain and spinal cord trauma and severe fatigue issues that still plague him, he started running in 2013.  And running.  And running.  He completed the Disney Marathon in 2015 and was hooked.  He’s since run 7 marathons, including 3 in 2018, does numerous long distance charitable bike rides.  More importantly, his cancer is now in remission.  He shares his story on his Facebook page and raises funds for cancer through his endurance events.

Boyd and I had some exchanges as I was writing this post, and he shared the details of his story with me.  Boyd was quick to point out that his Christian faith and support from church friends played a big role in his recovery. Things That Matter.

In one of our exchanges, he made the following comment, which I thought was the best way to conclude this post:

I have learned a lot about focusing on the things that matter most. Boyd - leukemia survivor. Click To Tweet

He concluded by saying, “This is what life is all about.  FI just opens the door to more opportunities.  I choose to be grateful for all the opportunities life gives us!”

Things That Matter. 


Conclusion

There are a lot of Things That Matter in life, and a lot of things that don’t.

Have you taken time to think about what’s truly important to you?  Are you intentional in ensuring that the things that matter get the appropriate attention?  Take some time this week to put together a list of Things That Matter … And Things That Don’t.  Think about how you use your time, and be a bit more intentional with your life.

Your life will be better for it.

Your Turn:  What matters in your life?  Are there areas that don’t matter, but get a lot of your time?  What are you doing about it?  Has it made your life better? Let’s chat in the comments…

42 comments

  1. You’re telling me Hollywood doesn’t matter? I just googled that and the internet disagrees, there’s TONS of pictures! My world…. shattered.

    🙂

    Good stuff Fritz. More seriously, I like you including “the past” in what doesn’t matter. I have a tendency to focus on “the old times” with my longtime friends when we get together. It’s fun to tell old stories and reminisce, but I should focus on making more stories in the now.

  2. I like that you put freedom on the list, Fritz. I think that’s an important one that coincides with a couple big ones for me… fun and laughter. Is there any other reason for living? To me, those are what give you the best memories to look back on.

    Great post!

    — Jim

  3. Finally, an article in all the clutter and a manifesto that I can truly say resounds with me. Working, living, being in an environment that does not value people, care for their growth, live with them through the tough times and rejoice in the good times is not an environment to be in – this article has helped push me to a decision I have been stalling on for a year. I wish Boyd well and hope he finds him.

  4. Fritz, another great post, Thanks.
    Two things have helped me to “try” to avoid what doesn’t matter:
    1. A news fast. Most of what is going on doesn’t change one day to the next. With today’s technology and social media, you can stay informed enough just by accident.
    2. Studying Stoic philosophy. I use a book called The Daily Stoic which provides short daily lessons. Stoicism can be best summarized by The Serenity Prayer (applicable to religious and non-religious folk) “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

  5. Fritz,
    Excellent post.
    Thank you.
    Very helpful in reminding us to stay focused on the right things and veer away from the pull of the infinite flow of distractions that come our way.
    Joe Casey

  6. Hi Fritz,
    I loved this post and as you know I, too, am working on living an intentional life. I found your quote from Feynman most compelling.

    “You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you. You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be.” Richard Feynman

    Not worrying what others think of me was a particular issue for me; it took me a long time to look inward for my worthiness and not depend on external validation. It was an evolution and I think that the older I got the easier it became. Maybe that is just a natural part of the aging process. LOL It also extends to how I feel about others. I look at people for who they are in the moment.

    And, one thing that does not matter to me is politics…if you listen to too much of it the noise can be deafening.

  7. Great post Fritz. For those of us retired folks it is easy to loose focus. I need to make a list as you suggested and keep it in plain sight. Hmmmm …. now what did I do with my pencil and paper?????

  8. Not sure who said it, but….
    “You wouldn’t worry about what others thought of you if you knew how seldom they did”
    My wife, who is wise beyond her years, often tells me ” Is it going to matter two weeks from now?”
    I hear her voice when life seemingly gets out of control. Wisdom can be found everywhere.
    Glad I found this site. Lots of wisdom.

    Carl

  9. If you are confused or rationalizing about your time (I really don’t watch much TV – dang this remote!), then look at your money. Spending doesn’t lie – if you are spending money on something it probably matters to you. Always worth looking at if you are spending intentionally, too.

    Boyd has it right. Brother had a marrow transplant after stem cell treatment for leukemia. He was fortunate to have Mayo clinic and City of Hope access. But in a few years, that treatment will be available to all and we’ll look at chemo the way we look at bloodletting with leeches – how barbaric. His close relationship with church community made a big difference in his recovery, too.

  10. “Community” is very important to add to the “things that matter” list as it is important to “give back” to the Community should you have the opportunity and capability to do so. For me it is all about “quality volunteerism” and making a difference. All Communities need volunteers to make the Community stronger, whether it be helping the underprivileged, the needy or some other group that could benefit by being in the focus by others.

  11. I read once where regret about the past, and apprehension about the future are the twin theives that steal the present.

    Living in the present is a true joy, but I’ve found that the twin thieves never sleep.

  12. Nice article.

    I would add being able to follow hobbies and interests to things that matter.

    My biggest failing is queues. I get really stressed when stuck in traffic or having to queue for anything and give the inconvenience far more weight than it deserves. Must do better here!

  13. Sorry I’m late to comment today, but I was busy doing something that matters more! Family and volunteering. Yet it didn’t seem like that when I started the day, before reading your post. It seemed more like a chore we got roped into because we have the time. First we borrowed a truck from my brother, so that we could travel out of town to my husband’s sister’s place. She has an extra washer/dryer set and we loaded it up to take it to my niece.

    Just another day in paradise, ha ha. Yet, in the context of what matters most, it has several of the elements that matter and is much more meaningful than whether McDonald’s was served to Clemsom football players at the White House 🙂

    1. Glad my words put your day in perspective! I had a similar experience yesterday – I had a friend call who is selling his Mom’s place after her recent death. It was an inconvenience to go over and give him a hand, but it matters! I focused on what matters, and enjoyed the time with him!

  14. My focus kept me from commenting earlier. Similar to Boyd, we have had a serious health issue bring our lives back into better focus. Mrs. r2e was diagnosed with a recurrence of her cancer last Fall. This has tremendously impacted us and if there is any positive impact it is that is led us to let go of the ‘stupid stuff’ that had distracted us.

    A big learning though is to make sure that you do not lose sight of other things that matter. It is very hard to balance everything but you need to. Make sure that when you are looking at your things that matter most list that you are not neglecting something else on that list.

    You may not be able to spend an equal amount of time on everything that matters, however, you need to make sure you have touched on everything that does matter so nothing is neglected.

  15. Hi Fritz,

    We live in a world full of distractions. As you know, I am a teacher, although a soon to be retired teacher!! One of my favorite quotes I tell my students is “Focus is the Key to Life”. When we focus on the things that matter, we can accomplish many things. Along with this is negativity. I see so many kids say to me, Mr. M…, I am going to fail this test. I tell them NO!!! Be positive because your mind will be focusing on that negativity!! In short focus on the things you love and ignore those things that will make you change your focus.

    PS Great Topic!!!

  16. Fritz,

    Great list and an eye opening post. The issue for me is the transition from corporate America, we both have worked for the same companies; which as you know can easily consume 100% of our time. That transition from 100% on to having more time than we can currently fill with our non-work day. Your focus on the things that matter is admirable and most of us the 50 -70 age group would agree with your list. The transition is the difficult part at least for me.

    Todd

  17. Boyd’s story is incredible. Thanks for sharing.
    I try to focus on things that matter, but there are so many distractions. The important things rarely come into focus unless something drastic happens. Health is a big issue as we age. Best wishes.

  18. Firstly, I love that you put hangnails on the list of things that don’t matter. They sure do suck, though! All joking aside the title of this post caught my attention because, after years of wasting my life away on things that don’t matter, I now get to focus on stuff that does. I’m not immune from occasionally getting caught up on stuff that doesn’t matter so it’s so important to read posts like this to remind me.

    I know Boyd virtually and we’ve exchanged kind words. He’s got an amazing story – thanks for featuring it!

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