Do you feel you matter?
In an email survey I sent out a while back, people said overwhelmingly that one of the greatest challenges to their quest for a life that is better for them and better for the world is the feeling that they don’t really make a difference. They can’t see that their efforts matter to anyone.
I understand because I feel that way, too. When you put a book out into the world, as I just have, after years of work, it is much quieter than you might hope.
It is not that people aren’t reading your book or that it doesn’t matter to people. I get some very nice email notes and Facebook messages. For example, Billy Kerr from Toronto wrote to me: “Unfortunately I haven’t done a thing all day thanks to getting your book as I’ve spent all my time reading and working through it, putting it down for a bit, and then picking it up a few minutes later and continuing on.”
And a reader not being able to pick your book down is like music to an author’s ears. But still, though Billy read my book. did it change his life? Did his reading the book somehow help the world? Do I get to see the results of my work? Because of the long-distance and infrequent relationship I have with the readers of my books, I still wonder:
Who do I matter to?
I don’t mean I feel sorry for myself (well, not usually). I just mean that I understand the problem so many of my survey participants talked about when they said they had difficulty feeling they made a difference. Who do we matter to?
But there is one way to know you are making a difference: to be part of an interconnected, supportive personal community who share your values, who you can help and be helped by, and who are also questing for a meaningful life. When we are part of a group like that, we at least know some of the people we matter to (building a group you matter to is an important chapter in How to Be Alive, by the way).
So I have had an idea that I think will make both you–my readers–and me know at least one group we are making a difference to. Sometime in the next few weeks I am going to announce a new online initiative—or maybe more than one—where lifequesters like you and me get to connect and help each other move toward lives that are better for us and the world.
Another words, it will be a group where we get to feel, at least, like we matter towards each other. It will be good for you, I hope, in that you will get to work alongside others towards a more meaningful life. And it will good for me, because I will actually get to see people changing and growing as a result of my work.
What do you think? What form do you think it should take? How would you like it to look? If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Meanwhile, don’t wait for me. Maybe you can look towards spending more time with the people in your life who share your values and want to be a helping part of this world. Have a dinner or a get together. Begin talking about where you want to go, both as individuals and as a group. If you have a group like this then you will be able to answer that question: Who do I matter to?
What do you think?
PS This question of building an interconnected personal community is an important topic in my new book How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World. Get a free sample chapter here.