"Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Why We Let Little Things Bug Us – & What To Do About It!

There is a quote that was sent to me by a friend and a fellow lover of quotes, and I immediately fell in love with the simple, yet profound wisdom it contains. It is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who says:

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”  

In fact, I’m thinking that the message of the quote, (our tendency to allow our state of mind to be overly influenced by people and situations that are not that important), could explain so much of the stress and frustration that seems so common these days.

For example, how often have we allowed unimportant people or situations to influence how we are thinking and/or feeling… drivers in traffic that we don’t know and will never see again… unexpected occurrences, such as a flat tire, car trouble, some small annoyance at home… customers or coworkers who are clearly having a bad day and looking to share their misery with us? Clearly, these are not the most important things in our lives, and, yet, we often find ourselves reacting to them in very significant ways.

I suggest that there are at least two reasons why we are so susceptible to these minor events…

The first is that we may be entering into them from a stressed, or frustrated position, meaning that if we resent having to wake up at a certain time in the morning, we will be starting the day already feeling resentful and annoyed. This has us primed to experience even any slightly negative situation as “another in a series of problems,” and, therefore, we find ourselves reacting to it with increased annoyance.

However, the most significant reason we may be allowing the things that matter least to influence the things that matter most is that we have not determined what matters most. In other words, we have not made a conscious decision about our highest purpose, or what is most important in our life. Therefore, I suggest that we address both of these deficits in order to become more influential in our lives and the lives of others.

First, I suggest that we not only become clear about what is most important in our lives, but also ensure that this is something that we can influence or control. In my books, seminars, and coaching sessions, I suggest that we make this “highest purpose” the qualities or characteristics that we want to bring to a particular situation, and that we choose these qualities or characteristics based upon what we would recommend to our children or someone we loved.

For example, if we decide that going into life with confidence, creativity, and compassion are important (something we would recommend to someone we loved), we can go into the morning practicing these qualities. In doing so, we will be much less likely to be affected by the situation itself because we have determined that being who we are is “most important.” We can then repeat this purposeful choosing of how we want to be for the afternoon and then again for the evening.

This focus on what matters most is also congruent with my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy which uses the latest brain science to understand and influence how our brain processes information. In other words, when we are coming from the upper 80% of the brain (the neocortex, what I call the “Top of the Mind”) we are in the best position to choose what matters most, and, thus, are less susceptible to the lower brain’s focus on those negative but inconsequential aspects of life that really don’t matter.

Do this enough, and we begin to actually rewire the brain by creating new neural pathways that will, with enough practice, become new habitual ways of thinking and feeling.

This is what I have the pleasure of teaching as I travel around the world…how to shift to the Top of the Mind, rewire the brain so that this more purposeful way of being becomes a habit, and then how to influence others to shift to the best of who they are, as well. If you feel that this would be valuable to those in your organization, I suggest you contact me, because, until we are able to choose what matters most from the conscious, purposeful part of the brain, we will forever be at the mercy of our old, reactive brain, and, thus, be at the mercy of those negative people and situations in ways we would not recommend to those we love.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill