How to Solve Your Mystery – What Really Matters?

Out of nowhere, I thought to myself the other day, “What really matters?”

My first reply to my querulous self was, “Other people matter.” Yes, all of us who love positive psychology remember our beloved Professor Chris Peterson’s mantra.

I think I have loving other people down.

I have spent my career as a special education teacher, school clinical psychologist, private practice clinical psychologist, and positive psychology coach and trainer helping others to become their chosen better version of themselves. I love my career. Helping others whip up well-being rocks.

I love my family and friends. I am grateful for our sharing, caring, growing, and morphing. I even appreciate the challenging opportunities to grow when conundrums roost upon my rafters.



That said, after other people, what matters?

At first, this sounds like an easy question. But I became aware I needed to sink my teeth into this interesting enigma. I wanted to pause and peruse. I found myself deep in thought pondering my own question. Personal values, strengths, coping skills, visioning, and well-being. Now that’s a ton of upbeat gems in your positive psychology treasure chest.

My musing led me to another question, “Why were migraines starting to kick my butt once again?” I am happy, fulfilled, and have meaning in my life. Aha!…



Our house is 37 years old. The lot it was built upon was only an empty field on Lake Michigan when my eyes first spied the “For Sale” sign. Importantly, there are only twelve lots on the lake, and it was the last lot. Next door to the lot lived Bob. He decided that very day to sell the lot. The price was steep, but it had always been my dream to live on water. We bit the bullet and bought it. I have never looked back. Lake MI has bestowed upon us phenomenal joy and ever-changing beauty. It was a great decision.

Wisconsin winters are snowy and glorious in their icy beauty, but they also reek havoc on driveways. And your pocketbook, too, when you need to replace them. Gulp. $40,000 for asphalt? Heart attack time. But we have to get it done. No other option.

After the sticker shock, understatement, I felt the asphalt necessity rear its ugly head again. Why? A sudden shock to me, I became aware that several of my flower beds would be ruined. Big machinery would gobble up my too close to the driveway flower beds. You know my flowers are my babies. And the prospect of their demise triggered my brain’s distress.

I would like to say I handled this situation like a positive psychology pro. I didn’t.

I had a fit, truth be told. Just lost it. Wasn’t a pretty scene, and I do feel sorry for Ken who saw my angst and got drawn into my crap. Not his fault. I wanted more empathy. Tough. He is a logical, realistic guy, my opposite. He was more right on than I. Usually I am not a victim, but man did I defend my flowers! We tease the two of us make one good pair, Mr. Cognitive and Dr. Emotional.

I thought about the value of ventilation and catharsis. Yes, it may be helpful in the long run, but in the short run, you just run amok.

I think about self-compassion. Yes I value that. But it takes time to actively focus on the good, at least for me. It is not automatic. I envy those more well adjusted, lay back folks who handle things like this with, “Oh, well, this too, shall pass.” Mom was naturally like this, God love her in heaven. I obviously took after my more high strung dad. Let ‘er rip, then cope! Humor. Yes, that is a huge value, and I wish sometimes it would come to the front lines earlier!

Back to the question, “What really matters?”



My valuing beauty and the hard work it takes me to achieve that with my flowers matters to me a great deal. It is mastery, accomplishment, fun, and they make me feel proud when they bloom in all their rewarding beauty.

It also hit me that what matters is how I show up in the world. I have an awareness that I am far from accomplished in this realm. I am fallible, too worrisome, and too much a perfectionist. I know this and try strategies to not show up this way. I fail often. At least I can say I am sorry, not that that fixes things. But I keep on truckin’ when that inner critic pops out to taunt me.

To know what matters ask yourself:

  1. What matters most to me? What is important, necessary and most meaningful to me?
  2. Why?
  3. What values/purpose am I serving?
  4. Am I actively aware of these needs/wants often enough?
  5. How would my life be different if I did not LISTEN or ACT to achieve these values?
  6. Do I allow myself to engage in what brings me positive emotions often enough?
  7. If not, why not? How can I light their positivity spark?

I hope you gift yourself with time to kindly answer these questions. Really dig deep.

For me, I realized I was working too much and not allowing myself to have enough fun and adventure. I took pride in my projects, but my body was trying to tell me to slow down and smell the roses. Begone newly recurring migraines.

What to do/be?

I am off to a women’s conference. I think that will be just what the doctor ordered. I will savor every moment I share with my dear coaching friend, Sheila Tasman, and her friends, in Louisville, KY. You bet I value lovely generous her. She matters! And we always have fun.

The asphalt will be installed while I am at the conference. I will not be tortured watching the life be crushed out of my cherished flowers.

Life is good and filled with fascinating irony. Who knew the asphalt guys would begin the several-day smelly job the very day I am leaving? It should be done when I get back to WI. A clean slate in more ways than one! And I won’t focus on the empty bank account. Look for the good! No more lumps and bumps in our driveway. Our cars, and my brain, too, will appreciate the smooth path to our door.

After I finish this blog post, I am joyfully trotting outside to spray paint a large Picasso-like medal garden bench. I am placing it right on top of the old asphalt. The 37 year old asphalt will go out in style, bedeck with brilliant aqua for its last claim to 1407 Memorial Drive fame. It will get a grin before it finishes its duty tomorrow, as we take our last spin

Hope the rest of your summer is grand and filled with colorful fun.