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Column: What's important?

This is probably one of the most unusual years I will ever experience in my lifetime. My life experience thus far has been filled with twists and turns.
Airdrie opinion

This is probably one of the most unusual years I will ever experience in my lifetime. My life experience thus far has been filled with twists and turns. With each one, I’ve gained experience and skill sets that allow me to navigate the twisting path my life’s journey has taken me down. But nothing has come close to what 2020 has thrown at us.

If ever there was a time to follow my parents' advice, it’s now. I can still hear my mother’s voice saying, “Always plan for the worst and hope for the best.” It was her way of keeping me focused on tomorrow so that I wouldn’t become complacent when times were good. It was also a warning that not all I would experience in life was within my control, so I should protect what was important to the best of my ability.

To protect that which is most important, one must first identify that which is most important. Like most people, I place family at the very top of the list – not just those related by blood, but those chosen as family.

The second thing one must do is identify what needs must be met. For me, those are health, shelter, food and essentials like heat and electricity. This is important as it helps one recognize what is most important in life: loved ones and their well-being.

Now comes the hard part – the "planning for the worst and hoping for the best." What threatens the well-being of you and your family? Is it finances? Health? Lifestyle? Those are the things we should focus on improving and protecting. A person should never assume all other family members are on the same page. It’s important to let them know the things you are committed to and why you are committed to them.

It's easier to deal with finances in the short-term rather than the long. “You need to save for a rainy day” was another phrase my mother repeated often. That means when we are blessed with excess in the short-term, we should set something aside so that we have it available to us in times of challenge. This ensures we can maintain food, shelter and essentials during times of hardship. It takes great self-restraint to keep from splurging when times are good.

Health is always tough to plan for. It’s hard to explain to children why we limit sweets or saturated fats. They taste good, but the fact that heart disease or diabetes is inherent in your family is not easily understood when they haven't experienced any symptoms themselves. It’s hard to refrain from overindulging ourselves, let alone watch out for our children.

The last is lifestyle. Lifestyle is the hardest because, for most of us, it consists of habit. How often we consume alcohol, how often we exercise, how often we eat out and how often we socialize. It is our lifestyle that is currently being altered by a pandemic beyond our control. There are no large gatherings. We can’t do all we usually look forward to. Sporting events, concerts and parties cannot be enjoyed as they have in the past. We have been forced to adjust our habits, which has even impacted many families' finances and health.

What can we do now? How do we protect that which is most important to us? Believe it or not, continue to plan for the worst and hope for the best. As I said, this has probably been one of the most unusual years I’ll experience in my lifetime, but I’d be a fool to believe there won’t be more unusual years in my future. Save for a rainy day, keep your family and yourself healthy and take this opportunity to discover lifestyle changes that will enhance the well-being of your family.

One last thing. This would be an excellent time to sit with older family members and learn how they’ve overcome challenges in their lives. You may not be able to do the same things, but there will probably be a few key lessons that will help you navigate the twists and turns that tomorrow's path will lead you to.