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James Watkins

There are many famous formulas: E=MC2 has something to do with the speed that traffic lights change relative to how far you have to travel and how late you are. C=PiR2, if I remember correctly, is helpful in cutting a pie into even portions. And, of course, there’s Formula 409, which I have never seriously tried to master.

Here’s another formula—and you don’t need a pocket-protector full of engineering pens to understand it:

Y Z >A R = C

Simply put, if amount of your zeal (YZ) is greater than your area of responsibility (AR), then you will experience composure (C).

For instance, Kevin has the zeal and energy of the Energizer Bunny on speed, so let’s say he has 10 “Z-factors” for his amount of energy and zeal (YZ). He’s married, father of two, works 60-plus hours per week as a nuclear power operator, and serves as a member of the county school board for a score of “eight” for “areas of responsibility” (AR). As long as his amount of zeal (10) is greater than his areas of responsibility (8), he will experience “composure.”

Let’s say that Elizabeth is a working mom with two preschoolers, volunteers at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center and is guardian of her aging parents, so also has an 8 for areas of responsibility. But—oh, oh—her “Z-factor” is only a 7. Because her amount of zeal (YZ) is less than her area of responsibility (AR), the Y Z >A R = C equation is reversed and, instead of composure (C), she feels like she’s going …

C = R A>Z Y

The “Z-Factor Theory,” then, is quite simple. If we’re going to maintain composure in our lives—and avoid being ordered to see a court-appointed psychiatrist—our energy level needs to be greater than our areas of responsibility. By recognizing that each person’s metabolism and personalities equip them with a unique level of zeal, we can make an effort not to go over our own area of responsibility “weight limit.” There are two ways to assure this: increase our level of zeal or decrease our areas of responsibility.

It is possible to increase our energy by eating right, exercising, and taking our vitamins every morning. But until we look like the Greek gods or goddesses on those work-out videos, we may need to try something less Olympic. Reducing our area of responsibility is a good place to start. (For practical to do this, click here.)

For more hope and humor, visit jameswatkins.com.

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