Opinion: Wisdom Workout

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Bunches of Money

This long-ago memory revisited me this morning. My seven-year-old granddaughter and I planned a jailbreak from after-school care. (Name withheld because she is a grownup now and I didn’t ask her permission).

We drove to McDonald’s, ordered french fries and hot fudge sundaes and then found a booth. “If you could do anything, what would it be?” I asked her, as we settled into our seats. She looked directly at me and said: “I would have bunches of money.”

Intrigued, I continued: “If you had bunches of money what would you do with it?”

“I would give it to my mom.”

“What would your mom do with it?”

“She would pay the rent, buy food and buy us all clothes.”

At this question, she let out a big sigh. “This morning my mom had to borrow two dollars from my sister for my lunch.” Her little body shifted back and forth with discomfort.

“Lunch costs two dollars?” I asked.

“No… it costs a dollar and sixty cents, but if I have two dollars, then I have 40 cents left and if I can find a dime then I can get a snack.” Now we’re talking.

She described all the different snack options with great animation as I fingered through my wallet, keeping it out of sight. I found 16 quarters and lined them up on the table in stacks of two. We entertained the options. With 16 quarters, she could purchase snacks for eight days straight. Another idea she had was to put the quarters in a special place so that if her mom ran out of money, she could shore her up out of her own stash.

My granddaughter taught me a lot that day. She felt her mother’s distress and wished with all her heart that she could resolve it. How often have we each been in that position with someone we love? She was carrying the problem with no way to resolve it.

Here is the first lesson. We can’t solve a problem that we didn’t create. Earning a living and paying her own expenses was out of her current level of expertise. She is smart and she could identify the problem.

“Mom doesn’t have enough money.” She came up with a conceptual solution. “If I had bunches of money, I would give it to mom.” End of problem.

Her solution of wishing for bunches of money couldn’t solve her mom’s problem and created a more serious problem for her. It repressed her vitality and replaced it with worry. Lesson number two. When you ingest problems that you don’t fully understand and can’t solve by yourself, it depresses your exuberance and leaves you stuck in anxiety and worry.

Once she shared the part of the problem that affected her, we were on our way to a solution. Though the issue started out as a lack of lunch money, the part of the problem that was her real motivator was: “How can I have money for snacks?” Lesson number three. Broad goals don’t motivate us to take action. For example, a goal of losing weight is too general and much less motivating than something specific like finding an outfit in a smaller size for a specific event and making it happen.

Bunches of money seemed like the answer. The real answer was to find a way to satisfy both her desire to help her mom and also satisfy her own desires.

By respecting ourselves enough to treat our wants and needs as important and creating a specific plan to address those desires is the formula for a satisfying life, whether we are seven, 17, 47, or 70.

Susan writes and produces personal development small group seminars locally.   Find her at susanvelasquez.com.

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