Too Many People Think Life is Like Math. Here’s What I Mean

A few days ago, my wife and I were talking about going to the store. We’d been given some cash for Christmas by our families, and knew exactly what we wanted to spend it on.

The only “problem” was that the weather was pretty disgusting. After a long day of work, the last thing I wanted to do was venture out into the muck and gloom in search of a desk for our home office. But my wife was super excited about getting a desk.

Here we have two different lines of logic, with two valid conclusions for whether doing one thing is the “right” answer.

I’m tired, being out in the rain will further drain me and cause me to be upset, ergo I do not want to go to the store. Versus: it would really be useful for our situation to have a desk, we’ve just been gifted the exact amount it will cost, ergo let’s go get a desk.

When we were discussing this with each other, we both accepted the other’s point as a reasonable conclusion. Both of us could be “right.” But many people, perhaps the majority of those in leadership and decision-making positions, would not have been able to accept both conclusions as correct.

Too many people view life, and all its multitudinous aspects, like math. That is to say, a sizable amount of people believe there’s only one answer — one correct way of thinking, one correct choice — for every thing and every moment. This is fundamentally wrong.

As many differences as there are in personality, physique, and genetics, there will be in what’s “correct” for each of life’s circumstances.

Since we know that no two people’s hundreds of trillions of synapses fire identically, we ought to know that there is an equally unfathomable amount of “correct” answers.

When people begin making decisions about their own lives, and the directions they should take based on what they think will be best for them, you do not get to shout out that they’re making the wrong choices.

What you think is right for you or your situation probably isn’t going to be right for the next person. This goes for shopping, politics, career planning — everything!

Why can’t we accept that? Many, myself often included, refuse to accept that what they think or believe isn’t 100% infallible. And I think this is because people view any conflict against them (their choices, beliefs, etc.) as a sign that they’re wrong, or even a bad person. Who wants to feel that?

But a difference in viewpoint doesn’t equal one person being right and the other wrong. It usually just means that there’s multiple ways of approaching the same situation, like how there’s multiple personalities that are all perfectly acceptable to have.

Too many people view life like it’s one big math problem, going through the motions of what they’re “supposed” to do, making all the “right” choices. They get stuck feeling they have to do something. But, no matter what it is, there’s always going to be multiple ways of viewing a situation.

There’s always going to be several options that will each yield beneficial results. There’s always going to be a few good choices and a few not-as-good choices, but there’s never going to be one “right” answer.

There are limitless possibilities for any situation, most of which will end well for you. Don’t treat life like a math problem. Do what you think is best for you.

Originally published at on January 4, 2016.