Originally posted Jan. 27, 2013, at Aging And The Church. Republished with permission of the author.
To matter, to sense that your being “here” makes a difference in life, is a state of mind, your mind, that affects your life and well-being.
A problem with this brief understanding of important personal meaning is that life has so many different circumstances. What matters at one point in your life can be very different from what matters most at another. Yet as you experience changes, you may not understand the helpfulness of doing some things differently — in order to regain your “sense of balance” so to speak. Furthermore, there are so many things that change as we grow older, that knowing what will matter most to us tomorrow is almost impossible.
We all know that to feel that “I matter” is important throughout our life, regardless of our means of evaluating “success”: expressions of parental love, a smile from a peer, a “well-done” from a teacher, a pay-check from our employer, a hug from our child, a promotion in our work, a comment of gratitude from a friend, an expression of appreciation by a colleague.
So how about this understanding!
Back in 1976, two psychologists published a remarkable research study. They randomly divided a group of 91 nursing home residents into two groups. In one group, residents were given the choice of having the responsibility of taking care of a small plant placed in their room. The other group was told that the staff would be taking care of their new plants. Results showed a significant improvement for the “I’m responsible” group on alertness, active participation, and a general sense of well-being that was not true for the group for which the staff took care of the plants.
If a person has a greater sense of well-being and active contribution because of the meaningful attention they give to a small plant, wouldn’t this same perception that one matters to friends, for instance, also increase well-being? The answer from research is a resounding “yes.” Being asked to help others, for instance, suggesting a sense that one has both the competency to help out and the opportunity for so doing is significantly correlated with well-being across one’s entire lifetime.
So trying to understand mattering is worth our time. Discovering how to increase a positive sense of mattering is worth our study. This is important not only because it will affect your own future, but, more importantly, almost immediately you will discover that mattering involves social interaction. Yes, you can increase your own sense of mattering by observing more astutely the forces in your life that seem to make a positive difference for you. But more importantly you can be the person that says something or does something that signals to others that they matter as well.
Find a link to Bruce Roberts’ blog Aging And The Church at Lutheran Blogs.
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