How To Matter To Others More
How To Matter To Others More
August 5, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
One of the haunting voids that we sometimes feel in our lives is the desire to matter more to others. The extent to which we matter to others is our legacy in this life. Some people might think that it is difficult for any one person to matter that much when the earth is virtually littered with people. The good news is that life expects us to at least matter in the sphere in which we are placed – starting with our own backyards, inner circles and communities. We are all unique – nothing about us is a coincidence of birth. Everything about us, including our good and bad life experiences, matters in some way or another and can be leveraged to enhance the lives of others. Hence, to matter more to others, we must embrace ourselves as we are.
We do not automatically matter to people because they are our families, friends or significant others. Being able to matter to others is a right that we must earn. Becoming a person who matters requires both intention and attention. Our intention helps us to make it our goal to matter more as well as etch it into our value system. Our attention allows us to focus and align our daily activities with our goal of being a person who matters more to others.
One expression that we hear quite often is, “It doesn’t matter.” When a thing doesn’t matter, it means that whether the thing is there or not, we are emotionally indifferent. What we do not want to happen to us is that the people around us are indifferent to our absence or our presence. If that occurs throughout our lives, it means that we will have left no lasting legacy or imprint on the world. Thankfully, we do have control over the positive impact we can have on people and there are specific things that we can do to matter more. Here are five simple things that we can do to jump start the journey of being people who matter to others:
- Give of our time more. Whenever I visit a friend or relative in the hospital the thing that strikes me the most is when I see one room with a patient surrounded by people and flowers and another that is stark and empty with the recovering patient sitting alone in silence. I imagine that no one wants to be in a hospital to battle an illness alone and that a five minute visit would mean the world to him or her. My heart breaks even more when the patients are children. Many hospitals have outreach programs where people can visit patients, send them flowers, give them teddy bears, read them stories and so on. We tend to matter more to others when we show them love and care during their most challenging times – being gravely ill in a hospital is one of those times. Other than visiting the sick in a hospital, there are numerous other instances when people appreciate a visit. One other such instance is spending quality time with the elderly. This reminds me of the Bette Midler Song called “Hello In There”. Some of the lyrics are as follows: “You know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day, but old people, they just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, ‘Hello in there. Hello’.” Our culture can be obsessed with youth and sometimes we overlook the unbridled wisdom, knowledge and war stories that are being transported by the elderly among us. When we spend quality time with the elderly we will matter greatly to them. Not only will we enrich their lives but they will greatly enrich ours as well. Remember that even five minutes of your time can make a big difference to someone who needs it.
- Say “Thank you” more. The mind might forget things every now and again; however, the heart has an elephant’s memory. Hence, the heart will forever remember appreciative words. When we tell people “Thank you” it is more than a cerebral message – it is a heartfelt message that makes us matter more to them. Whether we are acting in the role of a supervisor, a friend, a parent or a partner in a relationship, we should make it our priority to appreciate the things that people do for us on a daily basis. We can say “Thank you” directly to people, say it in an email, a text, or send a card - however we do it, it will be appreciated. Also, there are times when we go to a restaurant, a hotel or various service centers and someone goes above and beyond in providing service to us. Never forget to say, “Thank you.” So many people serve us every day – garbage men, train drivers, military men and women, the post man, police officers, cleaning staff and so on. We should get into the habit of letting them know that they are doing a great job and thank them to let them know how much we appreciate what they are doing. The quality of our lives would be poor without all the people who work diligently every day to ensure that we are able to have food, clothes, shelter, entertainment, clean drinking water, a garbage free environment and that we are safe. Whenever you see people who work in service, periodically thank them. While they are critical to our survival and quality of life, these people’s jobs can sometimes be thankless. Buck the trend of taking these people for granted and tell them, “Thank you! I really appreciate what you do to make my life better every day.” They will not forget you or your appreciative words.
- Lend our ears more. Many of us struggle with being good listeners; however, we tend to matter more to others when they feel that we listen to and acknowledge them, particularly when they are wrestling with problematic issues. We cannot learn about a person if we do not press pause on our lips and focus our ears on listening. My gut tells me that there are more people who are emotionally bankrupt than are financially bankrupt – hence more people need our ears than our money. Once we become emotionally bankrupt we become “voiceless” - voiceless because we feel that no one at home, at work, or in our relationships, listens to us without harsh criticism or judgment. Consequently, to protect ourselves, we simply shut down. Among the most grateful people I have met are the ones to whom I have lent my ears – more so than the ones to whom I have lent money. There are times when our friends do not want us to “tell it like it is” or to even magically solve their problems. They just want us to listen – to quietly hear them out so that they can let off some steam or unload some baggage. In those moments we should do just that. We matter more to people when we are there to listen to them during these emotionally bankrupt episodes. When we give a friend even five minutes of ear time it will make a tremendous difference. Also, we should get into the habit of calling up our friends to just ask them how they are doing and to ensure that everything is OK. Skip the gossip or the trash talk every now and again and simply listen.
- Mentor others more. Mentoring is one of the most impactful things that we can do to matter more to others. As a matter of fact, many successful people point to having a mentor as one of the key reasons for their success. That makes sense because, when we mentor someone, we quietly express the fact that we believe in the person’s ability to succeed in life and that we are committing our time and energy to ensure that he or she does in fact succeed. What a great endorsement! Mentors are role models who either leverage their own experiences and war stories to help those who they mentor or they leverage their relationships with others who might have the requisite experience or knowledge to help their mentees. In either case, mentors act as advocates with the singular goal of helping others to succeed. Just like guardian angels who advocate for us in the invisible world, mentors actively advocate for us in the real world. Becoming someone, who others can rely on to help them navigate their paths through life, will help us to matter more. Even if we only mentor one person towards finding his or her way, we will have performed a tremendous service to our communities.
- Share our talents and passions more. We are all good at something – whether we are good at cooking, singing, exercising, math, english, making people laugh, or painting – it does not matter what. We bond more with others when we share something that we are passionate about or something that is unique to us. The deeper the bonds we form with people the more we will matter to them. It is so easy to become bogged down by our daily lives that we only get to exchange pleasantries with even some of our closest friends. Without making a concerted effort to deepen our relationships with others, no one will really get to fully benefit from the relationship. In other words, we could matter a lot more to others if we take the time to scale the many layers of our shared passions. When we take the time to share our talents and passions with our friends, we enhance our memories of them, which makes us love and appreciate them even more. Some of my fondest memories involve spending time at the homes of friends who are great cooks – a group of us would eat, drink, share laughter, music and unforgettable stories. There were always a couple of memorable people who made everyone laugh or impressed the group with some special talent like singing, playing the piano or inducing belly bursting laughter. In the end, this is what life is all about – sharing our talents and passions with our friends. We should never take these experiences for granted. Rather, we should always ensure that we tell people that they matter to us whether it is because they make us laugh or their cooking makes us feel right at home.
My challenge for you this week is to start working on your legacy of being a person who matters. Pick one of the activities above that you will focus on. There is no bright line minimum or maximum threshold to benchmark the extent to which we need to matter. The more we matter to others the more we will feel that our lives have meaning and purpose; accordingly, when we matter enough to others they will tell us and our hearts will tell us, too. Enjoy your week.