There used to be a magnet on my grandma’s fridge that said, “It’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
If you don’t mind how something turns out, it doesn’t matter and it’s the not mattering that creates that beloved calm feeling. It’s tough to get stressed about something that doesn’t matter to you.
Before you get thinking that I’m suggesting that you not give a damn about anything or anyone, I want to clarify what it means to have something “matter” to you. When something matters to you, your happiness is hinged on its status which is what Buddhists call attachment. You have most likely experienced the struggle that comes along with attachment. When anything that matters to you goes pear-shaped, you feel anxious and stressed, yes?
What if you just decided that what someone said at the family dinner last weekend or what someone thinks of you or how much money you make wasn’t that important? I understand that it’s pretty tough to be happy about certain challenges you face, but what if you just decided that they didn’t matter? What if you didn’t allow the world around you to affect you as much? What if something unfortunate or negative had nothing to do with how special, worthy, lovable, deserving, or good you are?
What if nothing mattered in terms of defining the success of who you are and the success of your life?
When things don’t matter and you are able to practice non-attachment, you don’t care about outcomes. When outcomes don’t indicate anything about you or your life, you don’t hinge your happiness on certain things happening. And when you aren’t hinging your happiness and self-worth on what happens, you are much more adaptable and flexible in your mindset.
It’s not really the outcome that causes stress—it’s the meaning that is placed on an outcome that causes stress.
Without meaning, things don’t matter. And when things don’t matter, you don’t care what happens. And when you don’t care about what happens, it’s much easier to accept what happens.
Things only matter as much as you make them matter. You are the only one that provides meaning to anything that happens in your life. The key to making things less important is understanding that everything is meaning-LESS. Nothing comes to you with a predetermined value or weight. The importance of something is created by the meaning you give it.
Things not mattering is the essence of ancient Buddhist practices and philosophies. I’m not pushing religion here, but what I am offering is an endeavour to live in harmony with life rather than struggling with it.
The struggle we often endure in the face of adversity isn’t from the challenging circumstances, but rather, what we decide those challenging circumstances mean for us.
A break up means that you are lousy at relationships, or unlovable, or going to be single for the rest of your life.
Does it mean any of that or did you (for whatever reason) just break up with someone?
Losing your job means that you worked for a bunch of jerks, or weren’t valued enough, or going to have to move back in with your parents who live in a gated retirement village.
Does it mean any of that or (for whatever reason) did you just lose your job?
Your rebellious teenager means that you are terrible parent, or your divorce damaged them, or they will be in jail by the time they’re 25 years old.
Does it mean any of that or (for whatever reason) do you just have a rebellious teenager?
The reason for something is real, but the meaning you give it is made up.
Life really is far too meaning-full. We rarely take the world in because we’re so busy deciding that it means something when the truth is it doesn’t. If you don’t like what something means, the really cool thing is that you get to decide that it doesn’t mean that. You can change the meaning or simply decide it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
You’ll find you won’t mind the adversities of life as much when you decide that they don’t matter.