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Those who mind don’t matter

…And those who matter don’t mind.” Bernard Baruch

So if I mind, don’t I matter and if I don’t mind, does it matter? Just as this quote, at times, has been a perfect piece of advice for some, it also adds as many questions. As I write about the matters of the mind, this quote gives pause for thought and some different perspectives and angles of matters which come to mind…

The mind on what matters 

The neurological impact on emotional and ‘important’ events and people in our lives is extensive. From babies recognizing particular faces or familiar characteristics, to extreme fears based on early childhood experiences, our mind tends to record these impressionable moments in bold which mean that they tend to be recalled more vividly (sometimes incorrectly, but they pop to mind) or tend to be stronger associations that act as markers from the past that resonate with similar situations in the present. While emotional situations tend to ‘matter’ most, according to the mind, we also have to realize that the significance of situations/people/events varies from culture to culture, upbringing to upbringing. Our associations are unique.

People who mind – two sides of a coin

After I started formulating my own thoughts about this quote, I went to the ‘great oracle’ internet and found that this was a topic for discussion over the years of digital forum. Some believe that the people who matter most, won’t mind as much about the foibles and inconsistencies and mistakes we make as those who don’t know us or care for us as well (who don’t matter as much?), while others believe that minding is merely a matter of care, of interest and of healthy expectations and that not minding shows a lack of respect or involvement in a situation or with someone.

Let’s take a ‘trivial’ matter – I mind having large containers of condiments on the table at dinner (and like having dinner on a table rather than laps). My husband doesn’t mind. I came from an upbringing where there were several reasons for distilling sauces etc. to smaller containers – so they looked nicer, so there was portion control – it indicated care was taken for the meal. My husband doesn’t feel the same way. So if you look at it from one perspective – I’m being overly fixed in my serving ritual (inherited from the past when things were ‘different’). If you look at it from another – I’m taking a few moments of time to create what I believe shows care and attention to detail serving the people I love. So which is “right”? I don’t really know.

When it’s a matter of minding

Maybe it is more important to look at the impact and resources spent on minding, and what is the payoff or result, rather than trying to discover a moral yes or no for each situation. What is the mental, emotional and physical input we contribute to minding – is the outcome worth it? Is it a pattern we inherited that consumes more of us that what results? If we lose more than we gain by minding about something or someone, does it matter more or does it just cost us more to matter?

We also need to pay attention to any secondary gains we might ‘benefit’ from by minding – a secondary gain is the ‘advantages’ one gets as a result of an illness (medical) or of continuing a belief or pattern. This might be (negative) attention, it might absent us from taking responsibility while we play the role of the victim, or it may become an integral part of ‘who we are’, even if it isn’t working for us.

Minding those who do and don’t matter

Who matters? While I believe that there is a value in all. However, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that there was a cognitive limit to the size of social connections an individual could maintain – somewhere between 100 to 230, but often the Dunbar number is cited at around 150. So there’s a limit on the number of people we can ‘process’ in our lives? There has been continued study to substantiate this, so how does this translate to minding and mattering? When we combine both physical and digital world, it’s easy to go above that – if you have 2000+ ‘friends’, what does that really mean – do they all matter or are you mostly making sure they don’t mind what you say/do (so you aren’t defriended)? Our exposure to larger groups and our seemingly intimate and instant contact with others seems, at times, to cause as many problems as benefits.

So there may be neurobiological reasons to not mind, or place some of the people we have in our lives as not mattering as much. From my experience, if it isn’t something you’ve decided and committed to on your own, it seems to happen anyway. Steven Covey highlighted a time management matrix that had urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/unimportant, not urgent/not important – the first being the ‘firefighting’ you do at times, the second being the stuff of actual long-term value, and the others to be delegated/eliminated. There are situations and people who sometimes come up on our radar as urgent, but their importance may be secondary, while some of the valuable people in our lives, because they lack supposed urgency, fall off our cognitively full table. Are there people you love, respect or value that you have unwittingly neglected? They may not ‘mind’, but it might be time to reevaluate what really matters.

What’s the matter?

It may be a valuable exercise to reassert what and who really matters to you, and mind them more. Maybe it’s time to look at those things and people who boost you up, inspire you and support you, while highlighting those energy ‘vampires’ and energy killers – and either increase the former, or decrease the latter, or make sure that you have enough ‘ups’ to get you through the ‘downs’. Maybe it’s time to give ourselves permission to let go of things we minded in the past that are no longer important, or mind more about people or situations because we can see they truly matter to us. Maybe it’s time to focus more specifically on what matters within us – and realize that we matter. And once we matter to ourselves, the little minds and little matters that may have hurt us in the past don’t anymore – and we become the “matter that doesn’t mind” Baruch (and Dr Seuss below) was talking about.

Mind/Matter, in other words…

“Don’t worry, be happy.” Meher Baba

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr Seuss

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