Key Point: Peter Bregman, highly regarded psychologist, author, and consultant, recently wrote the following in Forbes: “Many of us are unhealthily—and ultimately unhappily—tied to mattering. It’s leaving us overwhelmed and over-busy, responding to every request, ring and ping with the urgency of a fireman responding to a six-alarm fire. Are we really that necessary? Relevancy, as long as we maintain it, is rewarding on almost every level. But when we lose it? Withdrawal can be painful. As we get older, we need to master the exact opposite of what we’ve spent a lifetime pursuing. We need to master irrelevancy.”
I write a lot about the importance of bringing value to others every day. It’s vital. However, if we define who we are and feel happiness exclusively by whether we matter to others or not, we will likely be setting ourselves up for a fall. It does feel good to be wanted by others and to really matter at work (and life). However, one day, for whatever reason, that will change. We will matter less at work and elsewhere. Then what? For those that thrive allowing whether they “matter” to be defined by others will, as Bregman states, “experience a lot of pain… Self doubt… Disappointment… Fear, and even depression.”
It’s a challenging paradox because we need to matter more by mattering less. First and foremost we need to matter to ourselves. We need to accept that we are all “good enough,” while continuously advancing emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. The purpose of self-advancement is about character development rather than being in perpetual self-judgment of being “good enough” to matter and be accepted. We need to accept being “good enough” and really matter to ourselves. In doing so, we can become better at mattering less to others.
- Fully appreciate the value we bring to others, and be cautious about becoming addictive to “matter feedback” to confirm our necessity. One day we all become less relevant to someone. Like Bregman says, “How we adjust — both within our careers and after them — to not being that important may matter more than mattering.” Contentment may be most attainable when WE accept we really do matter, even when less relevant.
- If you and I left work tomorrow because, let’s say, we won a big lottery, how long do you think it would take to replace us? I promise our former colleagues will say in a shockingly short time after our departure things like: “We miss ____, but (our replacement) brings a different approach that has its own unique value.” Let’s face it; we’re not as necessary as we like to think. It’s ok. Master irrelevancy.
Not necessarily necessary in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Not to get into big hot topic issues, but sometimes I laugh when people I know say they are “worried” about the government “reading our texts,” or “listening to our calls.” Not because I necessarily agree the government should or not, but let’s just assume they are. In my mind, that means some poor NSA agent has to mull through your latest late night texts with so-and-so you met, or try to decipher your sports arguments from that group text with 100 inside jokes and funny throwback pictures from 2007. While that’s entertaining to you, you’re just not “that” important… No one is flagging it up. And if you ARE being closely monitored, well, you’re probably up to something extremely bad. In this case, guess what? You don’t WANT to be that important. Feeling valued and wanted is critical, but not EVERY part of everyone’s day is or needs to be Instagram worthy.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis