Chapter 33 Summary

Treat the Disease, Not the Symptom

One of the young women Pausch used to date was several thousand dollars in debt. Not surprisingly, this was a major source of stress for her, and every month more interest got added to her debts. Again, it was not surprising that this only served to compound her stress. To help deal with the mounting pressures of her growing debt, she decided she would attend a meditation and yoga class every Tuesday night. It was the only free night she had available in her busy schedule, but she insisted the class helped alleviate her stress.

The classes became a kind of refuge. As she breathed in, she would imagine herself finding creative solutions to deal with her debts. As she breathed out, she told herself that her money woes would soon be part of her past. Tuesday after Tuesday, she would repeat these breathing exercises as a means of lessening her burden. While the thoughts were positive and the idea was good, neither breathing in nor breathing out helped her get out of her financial straits. Her self-talk did nothing to improve her situation; she actually needed to do something.

One day Pausch looked through her finances with her. It did not take him long to offer her a reasonable solution to her problem. If she were to work a part-time job on those Tuesday nights instead of attending the yoga and meditation classes, she would be completely out of debt in four or five months.

Pausch made sure his girlfriend knew he had absolutely nothing against either yoga or meditation. What he does believe is that it is always better to treat the disease first; if that happens, there is no need to worry about the symptoms. In this case, the young woman’s stress and anxiety were the symptoms of a more significant disease: owing money she could not repay. He made what was, to him, the logical suggestion that she quit attending her yoga class for a while. Surprisingly, this idea was a bit of a revelation to her. She had never considered actually doing something to alleviate her worry and pay off her debt.

The young lady took his advice and became a Tuesday-night waitress. She was soon able to pay off her debts. Once she did, of course, she was able to attend her yoga class and really breathe easier.