The following is a guest post by Gary Foreman with The Dollar Stretcher.com
Most of our 'problems' are really nothing more than undealt with discomforts. The moment we get up the resolve to look them in the face and do something about them, they vanish. Our real problems are the ones we are afraid to look in the face.
- Rabbi Shraga Silverstein
Everyone has problems. It seems to be part of the human experience. But, if you'll look around you it'll become obvious that not everyone handles their problems the same way. Some are crushed by troubles. Others are relatively unaffected.
Knowing what separates the two groups could make life much easier. So with that in mind, let's examine Rabbi Silverstein's comments.
The natural question is why are we so reluctant to face our problems? What is it about us or the problem that causes us to avoid any confrontation? Are there any clues on how to change our behavior?
What is it about certain problems that make us afraid to look at them? Based on my own experience I'd have to say that there are some problems that seem too big to solve. For instance, owning a home that's worth tens of thousands of dollars less than the mortgage. A big, immovable mountain of a problem.
Then there are the problems that we know how to solve but don't want to make the necessary changes in our life. I know of families that rarely cook at home because no one who lives there has learned to cook. Facing the problem means that someone is going to become responsible for learning how to cook and then providing a home cooked meal. If you just ignore the problem you don't have to face making a decision about cooking.
There are other problems that truly scare us. Some baby boomers are afraid to face their retirement. They've neglected retirement savings and now they're afraid that it's too late to do anything about it.
College students have a similar problem. Many of them know that they shouldn't be using student loans and credit cards for charging pizza. But, they tell themselves that since they're still in school that they're not required to be responsible yet. So they don't face up to the problem that they're creating.
Is there an answer? Well, we can take Rabbi Silverstein's advice and force ourselves to confront our problems head on. One way to make that easier is to not try to solve the whole problem in one day. Take the 'too big mortgage' as an example. You don't need to pay all of it off now. What's needed is the money to make the next monthly payment. Breaking the problem into small tasks makes it much easier to face. You're not facing the whole problem. Just the little piece that you need to handle today.
Or the family cook. They don't need to commit to preparing every meal for the rest of their life. Maybe just prepare a home cooked meal two days a week. It's not a complete answer, but it's better than turning away from the problem and eating out every day.
I'm no psychologist, but it's probably true that success breeds success. So for each day that you face a problem you make it easier to face it again tomorrow. After a few days the problem is vanquished (even if you might need to keep after it for years - as in paying off your mortgage).
What do you think of being afraid to face our financial problems? Do you have a story that would be instructive or inspiring? If so, please share it via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Facing Problems.
Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters.