Let's take 'disposable money' as an illustration – that is the money we have left over after our bills and expenses are met. To have more 'disposable money' we wish we could make a little more, alternatively, it could be a case of not being content with the money we have.
So by defining 'disposable money' as a financial problem, we've only allowed one solution, and that is to acquire more money. We may make plans to work harder, get another job, start a business, or take out a loan, all in an effort to fulfil this specific desire – having more 'disposable money'.
The Central Issue
However, if the central issue is not really money, but that of contentment, our true desire gets waylaid by the 'false desire' for more disposable money. We failed to correctly identify the 'true desire' and this sickness (not being content with the money I have) will subsequently show up in other ways.
How can we better identify the 'true desire', in this case, contentment? This is an internal state of mind, perhaps we're able to speculate whether our lack of contentment is simply caused by too much work and not enough play, or more hidden motivations and anxieties.
Why is this important?
Some might read this and think – 'well, that's great, but really it's just words, what difference does it really make? What tangible benefit does this give me?' Let's apply the above to another example.
In the Christian fellowship groups I'm involved with, there is an expressed discontent with conventional worship even if it is attractive with bright music. It centres around a lack of authenticity, which is narrowed to disconnection which means a lack of genuine 'Australian mateship' (men and women).
The 'true desire' is contentment, whereas there is a discontent with the level of Christian fellowship and support.
Most in my circle sense that 'conventional church' has failed to meet their need for contentment. Therefore alternative forms of worship are being examined such as small groups and home church. This goes directly to the issue of genuine fellowship and the depth of the relationship any other Christian will even allow.
Arguably, the 'disposable money' example, that of short term relief comes by meeting what we thought was our desire (make more to have additional disposable money), but in reality, the issue was contentment with what we have.
In using this Christian fellowship example, it's not a case of doing church one way over another, rather it's a sense of purpose or a feeling of belonging when engaging in genuine fellowship. This is where that Australian mateship is established.
These two examples illustrate the benefits of thinking about what we are saying and the accuracy of our analysis which will help us determine how effective we are at meeting our needs.
In this case, that of contentment. In this specific situation, Philippians 4 verse 11 and Hebrews 13 verse 5 spell out 'contentment'.
The original question, "What is it that determines how we think about something?" reveals how an issue more than likely has more potent underlying concerns.