THE PROBLEM WITH PROBLEMS
#1: Problems Loom Larger with Large Labels
It’s no secret that headlines generate clicks. And the more dramatic, shocking, or terrifying the headline, the more clicks it generates. Why is that? It’s partly because many people - beyond just staying informed of current events - want to feel alive and stimulated by something fantastical. If they aren’t getting enough of these feelings from their own lives, they try to live vicariously through other people’s lives. Yet the visceral, jaw-dropping headlines that pull us into an incident or a story illustrate how much power labels have over our attention. This is especially true of our mind’s internal, nonstop printing press of story headlines about our personal lives. And when we inattentively allow our minds to play the role of action reporter - labeling what happens in our lives as it sees fit - things can skew dramatically very quickly. We have to give the mind credit, though, for trying to be efficient. After all, the mind’s function is to take in as much information as it can and draw conclusions as quickly as possible. The trouble is that when it doesn’t have enough information, it tends to fill in the gaps with assumptions. And because it wants to protect you, your mind often chooses assumptions (and internal headlines) that err on the side of panic and calamity. You know… so you’ll be prepared. As well-meaning as our human mind is, if left unchecked, it will make false assumption after false assumption, and literally drive itself into paranoid insanity while taking you along with it. The lesson here, of course, is to try to be more scientific in our thinking and less theatrical.
#2: Every Problem Has a Solution
Problems, as we define them, are part of life’s terrain. There’s virtually no such thing as a human life that is free of what we perceive to be problems. However, as we’ve established, perception is very powerful, and it starts with how we decide to label something. Our experience of the world around us greatly depends on how we choose to perceive it. Two people can face the same circumstance and experience completely different outcomes based solely on how they initially viewed that circumstance. If one person labels their circumstance as a disaster, they will be instantly blinded to a bigger picture of how their challenging circumstance can be crafted into something good. This keeps them stuck in victimhood and negativity. Constantly cursing their situation, they’ll be lucky to get out of basic damage control mode. But if that same person reacts instead with acceptance of whatever has happened, paradoxically this enables them to work with the circumstance rather than fighting it along with their own negative self-talk. From there, they can let go of what they can’t control and more easily see silver linings and creative solutions that lead to positive outcomes. They remain humble and open in the shadow of their unanswered questions, and they have faith that answers are out there just waiting to be discovered. Far from having a ’woe is me’ attitude, they choose to be intrigued - even thrilled - with their challenges. And as a result, they are far more effective at solving them.
#3: Problems Are Symptoms of Something Deeper
The problems we encounter in life are not random. They are manifestations of psychological and spiritual blocks we carry within us. The disharmony we experience with our problems is meant to encourage us to reflect on how we’re living our lives; that is, how we think, how we internalize things, what we believe, and the day-to-day choices we make. To prevent the same personal problems from repeating, we must change whatever it is within us that keeps attracting those problems. Humbly and objectively looking for our part in our repeating problems is when that invaluable process begins… a process that enables you to grow as a person and experience much more joy in life. To achieve this, remember 3 things: First, as we’ve covered, do not make an enemy of your problems, and try to understand that they’re part of a larger, yet to be seen, beautiful picture. Second, catch yourself negatively labeling other people’s problems. Sure, you can recognize the difficulty of their experience. But when you look at another’s circumstances and see only dark clouds, your own dark cloud silver linings of hope will become obscured. Negatively commiserating with another (which is not the same thing as compassionately supporting them), makes you highly vulnerable to slipping into a victim mindset. And third, remember to ground yourself and your problems by simply imagining how much worse they could be. A quick image search of any war-torn region in the world is a very helpful tool for self-grounding. But moreover, it's only when you choose to think differently and show up differently that your problems will be solved, and your world will change.
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