I watched a short video a few months ago of the 2016 commencement address from Dean James Ryan of the School of Education at Harvard. His speech centered on five questions he thought were important to ask oneself when navigating life. I made a list of those questions. It sits on my desk and I review it regularly.
The fifth question is the one I try to ask myself frequently. “What truly matters?” I get irritated by trivial things and have started to use this question to regroup and refocus. For example, I get frustrated when I can’t find something I know I saw only the day (or hour) before. That book, article, file, etc. that I now want to refer to and can’t find.
I also get frustrated when I can’t find that word, the only word, that will truly communicate what I’m trying to say. It’s a brain glitch. I search the foggy depths of my mind, looking for the word, or even a synonym that could help.
And then there is the regular occurrence of walking into a room and wondering why I’m there. You know, you have purposely stepped into a room only to look around and try to remember what the heck you are doing there.
It is at these times I try to remember to ask myself, “What truly matters?” Does it matter that I can’t immediately put my hands on that book, article or file? Can I trust that it will appear eventually, and I can move along? Can I focus on what I’m working on rather than what I can’t find? Can I remind myself that I have other resources available to me at the touch of a keyboard?
What truly matters when I can’t retrieve that illusive word from my brain? I can usually rely on the translation abilities of my husband, family or friends. With enough hand gestures, circulatory explanations, or through pure guessing, someone will discover the word I’m unable to find among all those neuro-pathways. And, of course, by then I’ve forgotten what I was trying to communicate. Another opportunity to laugh at myself!
What matters is that I’m surrounded by people who don’t negatively judge my lack of retrieval skills. What matters is that my brain is healthy, and forgetting a word or a name is a common event for most of us. I don’t have dementia (although at times I wonder), and I’m not struggling with a major illness requiring medication that negatively impacts my brain function.
Walking into a room and wondering what was the original purpose for the trip is a normal occurrence for most people. It is not a sign of brain deterioration or lack of mental acuity, but more of a processing error based upon an over stimulated brain. I found an article that discusses this phenomenon and how to counter-act it, but I can’t put my hands on it right now.
However, I do remember that you should state your intention when you cross the threshold. The brain pays more attention to the change in environment than remembering why you are moving through space. So, I try to remember to say to myself, “I’m coming into the bedroom to change my shoes.”
I try to focus on the fact that I have a house with multiple rooms in which to store things, and that I have more than one pair of shoes. I remember that my home provides me with safety and security. What truly matters is that I have more abundance in my life than many people in the world.
Each day is an opportunity to experience brain glitches, minor miscommunication, frustrations, disappointments and more. This small question, “What truly matters?” enables me to transcend from irritation to gratitude.
Try asking yourself “What truly matters?” throughout your day. You’ll be surprised at how it will improve your productivity and reduce your level of frustration. Such a small question, and such a powerful tool. What have you got to lose?