Learning to Love Your Problems

A first step in becoming a better problem-solver

Posted May 13, 2012

Remembering these four choices helps us stop searching for a solution that doesn't exist, like the old favorite of having the problem magically disappear or wishing the problem away. We say things to ourselves like maybe if I sleep on it, it will be different in the morning or I don't like my choices so I refuse to choose. We get angry, cry, and blare our horns (both figuratively and literally) at the car stopped at the red light in front of us, shouting “it” shouldn't be there and “it” shouldn't be so hard. If only that would work! Problems do exist and sometimes they are life changing and harder than understanding the speed of light. Whether we “should” have problems or not, we do, and though we all "should" have one, unfortunately there is no fairy godmother to make them go away.

The Allure of Avoiding

Most of us, when faced with situations we don't like, keep hoping for choices that don't exist and procrastinate doing what we have to do. Others may jump in with the first option that comes to mind without thinking through the consequences. Both are forms of avoiding. Avoidance is generally not the best way to approach life's difficulties, though sometimes we are rewarded with positive results. That occasional pay-off for avoiding may make it even more difficult for us to become more effective problem solvers.

Acceptance

So part of coping in problem situations is simply accepting that we have problems for which there are no perfect solutions with no downsides. We have them now and we’ll have them for many years to come. Getting up in the morning and hoping for a problem-free day is probably not the best survival skill. Problems are almost guaranteed, though they vary in severity and difficulty in solving. Having a problem-free life is not possible.

Many of you are probably arguing with that idea even as you read about it. It doesn’t seem logical, but for some reason many of us share an unspoken expectation that life could be problem-free and perhaps should be, if only we were good enough. Some of us seem to think that is the goal. Then we curse our bad luck, blame others or ourselves, and become discouraged when problems occur. None of that is really reasonable if we think about it. Problems are a part of life and relationships.

Changing Our Perception 

Since we are going to have problems, then maybe we should change our view. If solving problems is a task we’ll have to do almost everyday, then maybe we should pay attention to our problem-solving skills. Instead of being happy to forget about problems as soon as they are over, maybe we should consider what we did that worked and what didn't work as well. Evaluating our skills and improving them could make the next challenge easier.  And one of the skills to consider is our attitude.

In Solving Life’s Problems, the authors point out the importance of the way people view problems. Individuals who are good problem-solvers look at obstacles as a natural part of life, an opportunity to learn and to gain from experience. They approach problems as if they were inventing a new life for themselves. They evaluate the situation, define the issue and evaluate the pros and cons of all the possible solutions they can generate.

Good problem solvers believe in their ability to come up with solutions and to get through the problem. This helps them not become discouraged and give up easily or be afraid of issues and avoid them. For them it’s like a puzzle to be figured out. The good news is this attitude (as well as problem solving skills) can be learned.

If each time you encounter a problem you let go of fighting against it and instead think about how you can best deal with it, given the resources you have, you are likely to be more successful in finding an effective solution. Value your ability to be creative and know that there is no perfect answer with no costs.Your job is to find the best choice for you among the solutions that exist. Practice. Changing your view of problems will make a positive difference in lowering the stress in your life.

 Reference

Nezu,A., Nezu, C.,and D'Zurilla, T.J. (2007).Solving Life's Problems. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

cc photo credit: thinklogically