Things that don’t matter

Thirty years ago my university professor quoted a friend. “I’ll never forget this,” he said. “It’s one of the most wise things I’ve ever heard.”

Everything matters, and nothing matters.

In about 4.5 billion years, our galaxy will collide with another. They won’t actually touch—instead they’ll blend together. There’s a high chance our solar system will be ejected from this newly-merged galaxy, and will drift until it is absorbed, or destroyed, or otherwise transformed by an encounter with something else.

The good news is that our sun will have exhausted itself by then, and all of the inner planets, including Earth, will have been vaporized.

Does it matter?

The only difference between a weed and a plant is that you want one of them to die and the other to grow. Dandelions matter if you make dandelion wine.

Everyone has his own version of an emergency. We want the world to get out of our emergency’s way, and we’ll push past anyone else’s emergency to get where we’re going. An emergency is a weed, or a flower. It’s a matter of perspective.

Or it’s not.

The point is that I’ve had clients who for years have banged their heads on things that didn’t matter. They had their version of an emergency, and there they were, trying to solve riddles like How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Somehow it never occurred to them to ask “Does this really matter?”

Socrates once said that the way to overcome a fear was to fear something greater. If you have one big, overarching fear, you become a big-picture fearer. Your life gets some focus. You figure out what really truly matters, and what you most definitely want to see, and don’t want to see, happen in your life.

Problems are like friends. You have fewer than you realize. But, sure, go ahead and tell yourself you have a lot. Only, you probably don’t.

Identifying the problems that aren’t problems is a skill. Often there’s a problem behind the problem, and a problem behind that. A ten-layered onion is still only one onion. Sounds simple, but I’ve met the people who think they have ten onions.

That means 90% of their time is spent thinking about a layer of their problems and ignoring the core 10% where the one root problem is.

Maybe we should throw away our problems the way we clean out our closets. You don’t put on everything in there anyway.

How many comfortable pairs of jeans do you have? How many friends? How many problems? What really matters?

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