My next contributor is well respected as a cardiologist, but he is even more respected for genuinely being the most positive person in the room. He is an eternal optimist, has an unshakable faith, depth of character, and when you leave a conversation with him, you feel interesting, funny, and well, just better. He makes you want to ditch your curmudgeony ways and do some good in the world. Knowing someone like this is a joy, but traveling down life’s road with his family as our forever friends is nothing short of a privilege.
This advice is important no matter where you are in life, but if you know a high school or college aged student, please forward or share because it will help them stay focused on what really matters.
It doesn’t matter.
I’m not sure when the mantra “it doesn’t matter” became apparent, but at some point I stopped sweating minutia and began focusing on the big picture. Human life has many surprises, but besides knowing there is a beginning and end, I am prepared to experience the journey between those two endpoints. Charles Wright, former poet laureate wrote in his poem Black Zodiac, “Take a deep seat, and a loose rein” and with this, I’ve learned to sit back and enjoy the ride.
This is not to say that fine details are unimportant, but earlier in life I was dizzied trying to achieve unnecessary, self-imposed expectations, while often missing the goodness of everyday experiences. Fortunately, I have recognized that those past attempts for control were fraught with a buzzing level of stress, and that being present and opening up to the possibility of change generated unexpected rewards.
In grade school, I was a habitual control-freak, list-maker, and teacher-pleaser, yet not in an externally apparent way. I was socially adept, academically involved and athletically competitive. However, in order to prevent mental collapse & preserve my sanity, I typically prepared far in advance of all deadlines, regardless of the topic. I still take pride in not procrastinating, but at that point in my life “it did matter”, and it was difficult to accept failure or last minute changes to a plan without a brain-based, Battle Royale.
It finally dawned on me when I was cramming for a post-graduate admissions test that my performance wasn’t a true measure of who I was, or who I would become and that I should be willing to give myself a little leeway. I was confident of my career passions and recognized that poor results could negatively affect my future – but I no longer wanted to let that fear drive my motivation. The paralyzing notion of failure wasn’t productive, therefore it shouldn’t guide my actions, opinions or future.
Please don’t misinterpret “It doesn’t matter” as apathy, but understand that it has reflected a centering concept that has kept me grounded. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking there is only one possible, predictable outcome measured as “success” when facing a physical challenge, moral test, mental obstacle, career-path, academic test, life lesson or spiritual hardship and recognize that once you commit to your decision, you cannot perseverate on the variations of the outcome. There should be no “what ifs”, “if only I had more time”, or “I wish I would have done it this way”. Prepare to the best of your ability, then move on. Thereafter, it doesn’t matter.