The Difference: Problems of Opportunity v. Problems of Existence

Since I met “J” (who is homeless and lives under a bridge), I’ve taken to using a mental image of him to help me get over myself.

Here’s what I mean:  During this morning’s drive to work, I contemplated a number of issues facing us at home and at work.  I’m sure you have a similar list of concerns, worries, and irritations.

I suddenly realized that most (if not all) of my problems are born out of opportunity  – whereas J’s problems (and those faced by billions) are existential problems.

What’s the difference?  A problem born out of opportunity is one like, “Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?“, whereas an existential problem is one that threatens our existence.  For example, “What will I eat or feed my children today?

In other words, what I perceive to be problems are situations brought about by the fact that I’m blessed — not a victim.

Let’s break down the problem of opportunity (Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?) into its component blessings:

  • Blessing: I have a beautiful wife (and she chose to marry me); she’s also healthy!
  • Blessing: My wife has a great job (not everyone has a job)
  • Blessing: My wife’s job is waiting for her (not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a home (certainly not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a healthy daughter (not every child is healthy — plus, not everyone is able to have kids!)

Broken apart in this way, my problem is composed of multiple blessings that bring about additional situations to consider — but unlike the problems faced by others in this world, none are life threatening.

They’re merely by-products of having opportunities.  Why is it so hard to remember this?

I challenge you to name a problem you’re facing.  Next, list the blessings your challenge is born from.  Does your perspective change?  

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About David Rosendahl
Husband, father, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things.

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