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Marriage and Family


An Issue With Math



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11/01/2012 - Anecdotes are a short account of an incident and are often used at the beginning of articles or speeches to capture an audience's attention. Instead of an anecdote for this article, I thought I would start off with a math problem.

Little Jonny went to the grocery store with five dollars in his pocket. He had been saving up his allowance to buy himself some candy. He found some candy bars on sale for seventy five cents each. Jonny walked out of the store with one dollar and seventeen cents plus his purchase. How many apples did Jonny buy?

I have vivid memories of math homework that included word problems. I remember struggling with nearly all of them except one. This type of problem required no calculator or long formulas to solve. In fact the answer to these problems is the same as the above problem. You probably have it figured out.

There are a lot of worries we have to face in life that weigh heavily on us. For some we may only lose a few hours of sleep. Other problems may be much more serious, causing us to become ill, lash out at loved ones or make other decisions that we may later regret.

The problem with many of these issues is it leaves us trying to solve a problem similar to the above math question. The answer to the problem, as you may already know, is that we don't have enough information. None of us really knows what the future holds. We may make plans, set goals or pursue dreams. We can invest in retirement funds, set a monthly budget or enroll for various programs. Sometimes our plans may be derailed. The same is true for the issues that pop up in our lives.

For most us, our minds have an uncanny knack of making things worse. We create a problem out of a non-issue, a catastrophe out of a small problem, and an apocalypse out of a big problem. A child may lie awake all night due to their making a monster out of a chair in the corner. In the same way, we often turn our problems into a life ending nightmare.

Are you struggling with a lingering problem, dealing with a conflict, worried because you are confused or uncertain about what the future holds, or just find yourself fretting over tomorrow? Then consider whether or not you are turning that chair into a monster. I do encourage you to save for the future and emergencies, educate your kids on how to deal with potential dangerous situations and get regular medical and dental checkups. But focus your energy on the here and now. Turn the majority of your attention on what you need to do and what you have right now. Only address the problems as you are able. A general rule of thumb may be that if you find yourself playing out a circumstance into the future, stop yourself, take a breath, and refocus your thoughts and energy to the present.

People who fail to appreciate the gifts and blessings in their lives now are the people who live with regret tomorrow. This is not to be used as a justification to make damaging decisions. In fact, part of keeping your focus on today is to be making healthy decisions today. I have heard it said that no man lying on his death bed has ever wished he spent more time at work. I have known people who have spent entire lives planning for the future, and when the future arrived, they wished they were back in the "good old days." Prepare for the future in ways you can, but make sure you enjoy the present.

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