Our family was young and we lived a great distance from the childhood homes where Cathy and I grew up. It was exciting every time we got to make the trip, especially after our kids were born. There is something beyond special about seeing grandparents.
One part our kids won't remember about those early trips is how stressful they were for me. Money was more than tight in those days and we had just enough money to make the journey, even with careful budgeting. I can remember the concern I felt, driving cars that weren't always mechanically reliable along many miles of barren highway.
Today, that part of life is but a memory. The cars we drive are more prepared and, in case we do have trouble, we have more resources to take care of the need.
Life is significantly more peaceful with some margin. Margin is that space between what you have and what you need. If you have some margin, you approach challenges with far more confidence. If you don't have it, you live in constant concern for the problem that will take you down.
Think about it for a minute. If you are a runner, you want to have something left for the end of the race. If you are working on a project, you want plenty of time. If you are traveling, you want to start on time and not chance a speeding ticket because you were late. If you eat at a restaurant, you want to be sure you have enough for the bill when it comes.
I thought of this recently in a meeting with a colleague. I mistook his recent lack of optimism as simply a bout of negative thinking. It turned out to be a lack of margin. He starts every week knowing that he will barely get things done -- including many tasks he is capable of doing at a much higher level. If he had some margin.
How about you? What parts of your life are comfortable because you are prepared for the challenges that will surely arise? What gives you stress because you have barely enough?