A few months ago, my mom introduced me to a friend of a friend of hers who is a writer. Turns out, she's not just a writer but a NY Times best-selling author of the book Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic - And What We Can Do About It. Her name is Jennie Wallace.
We did a Zoom call and completely hit it off. She has amazing energy and she started talking to me about her next project which is all about Mattering.
Now, you might ask, Mattering? Is it what I think it is?
To matter, people must feel valued — heard, appreciated and cared for — and they must feel like they add value in ways that make them feel capable, important and trusted, said Isaac Prilleltensky, a professor at the University of Miami and a co-author of “How People Matter.” It’s a two-part definition: feeling valued and adding value. (NY Times article Want to Believe in Yourself? ‘Mattering’ Is Key.)
When Jennie explained to me what Mattering was, I was hooked. I felt like it described what matters to me most but that I haven't been able to articulate succinctly. It's a tough one to explain, but I almost feel like "Old Burt" wanted to matter but never felt like he did (that's not as sad as it sounds, I promise). But "New Burt", or who I am now, values Mattering pretty much above all else. Where "Old Burt" was all about validation, "New Burt" is all about Mattering.
I started volunteering a lot because of the feeling helping people gives me. Although one still needs money to live, I found that Mattering is what really makes me feel alive.
In 2018, I had been working in Marketing in the healthcare industry and felt like I had become part of an amazing community that tried to help people and matter. I left the healthcare world to pursue a better title and more money. Guess what? My health started to decline rapidly. I will never attribute one thing to an outcome, but chasing money and titles made me feel like I mattered less, and that definitely impacted my mental health which in turn impacted my physical health.
I honestly never thought about this before meeting Jennie and reading more about Mattering and how important it is to feel like you matter to yourself and the world. Think about these questions that I stole from a video of a Dr. Flett presentation on Mattering. (He is one of the leading authorities on Mattering).
As many of you know, my diagnosis completely changed my life. I am a different person and feel better about myself than I may ever have. My diagnosis caused me to take stock of my life, and led to my "strategic plan" and my four tenets which I developed in the fall of 2022:
Help others heal
Help others who help others heal
Support my friends and family (added to my list of 3 while hiking in Glacier NP in 2023)
Once my plan was in place, and I started using my tenets to guide my decisions, I felt like I started to matter more. I felt like I was making a real difference and really helping people.
I resigned from activities that weren't helping people, started meeting a ton of people who needed help, volunteered for a bunch of orgs, started a 501c(3), and really focused myself on my four tenets.
So, what advice would I give? I would say think about how much you already matter to others (I bet it's more than you think). And, if you are struggling to figure it out, come up with what you can do to get yourself to that point. Mattering doesn't mean changing the world, but it could mean changing someone's world. Whether that's a child, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, a community, etc.
Since I've been more focused on Mattering (without knowing that there's a term for it) I feel like I have been more engaged, more empathetic, a better listener (I hope!), a better friend and family member, etc. It's seriously changed my life.
Mattering is now what truly drives me. Sometimes I worry that I go a little too far as I am reachable pretty much around the clock, but helping someone makes me feel great. I know that I am being a little selfish and there is ego in this part. But I’m an extrovert and a marketing guy who has lots of energy and I feel like I have finally figured out how to put it to use in a way that makes me feel like I want to.
If you are interested and want to learn more, click on any of the links above or visit this website about the Mattering Movement.
If anyone wants to talk more about this or to share a story or thought, I would love to hear them. You can email me, post on socials, ask here, etc.
Note: Please forgive me for the number of times I used the words "matter, Mattering, matters, etc". If I had a jar in where I put $1 for every time I used a related word, I'd be rich! Also, I consciously capitalized Mattering, since when I use it I am discussing the concept.