Many of you will have come across the saying that “the problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem”. What does THAT mean? Are there no problems? Are we making them up? How do we define a problem?
Here are three thoughts and ideas about problems that I believe are necessary to understand before we even attempt to solve them.
- A problem is not a problem until you call it a problem. Every time you name something a “problem” it basically creates the mindset that this is going to be something that is difficult, this is going to something that might be even impossible, this is something that is associated with failure.
- A problem is only a problem if you surrender to it and don’t do anything about it. If instead you decide to do something about it, then all of a sudden it becomes a project.
- A problem is an opportunity for you to change something that is not going well, to define the person you want to become, and to grow personally.
As a bonus, here is a small framework on how to tackle problems in case they occupy your mind and you can’t get rid of them. Five simple steps for you to get some peace of mind.
- If you get these problems and thoughts in the middle of the night, feel free to ignore them.
- Separate the urgency from the problem that you perceive you have
- Take a step back and look at the problem, define it clearly (what is it here that I’m really afraid of?) and look at the consequences and probabilities of it.
- Ask yourself whether there is anything that you can do about it
- Accept that things will go wrong no matter how well you plan, and take the lesson life gave you
I feel honored to share my experience, knowledge, and insights to make you feel good about yourself, to raise your ambitions, and make that role model in you come alive so that you can succeed and inspire others.
Hi everybody this is Tasso from RolemodelU and today we are going to tackle problems.
Problems…everybody has them, nobody wants them. When I was younger my father used to tell me, “Tasso, you are creating problems where there are none“, and I was saying, “Dad, what does that mean. I don’t get it?” and I never understood it. I never understood what he meant until today. Well not today-today but…you get the point.
It is true, when I reflect back, I was that kind of person who was amplifying and exaggerating problems. I grew out of this a bit along the way and I thought that maybe there are other people out there who might want to hear a couple of thoughts and insights that helped me overcome these problems.
Many of you will have come across the saying that “the problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem”. That puzzled me as well. I thought, what does THAT mean? Are there really no problems? That we make them up? That we generate them like my Dad was telling me that I was doing?
How do we define a problem? Is a problem something, like a struggle, that is common to many people? Like war? Is war a problem? Because war is not a problem to everyone! See, there are people who make billions and trillions of profit out of war.
Or for instance when there is a health issue and the government tries to implement a health plan. This is not a big problem for the people, because people don’t even know the disease exist. It’s a problem for the government. So what is it all about?
It really puzzled me and then after a lot of thinking I came up with a couple of thoughts and ideas about problems that I feel are necessary to understand before we even attempt to solve them. I wanted to share these three things with you and see if it’s helpful.
A problem is not a problem until you call it a problem. This is a very big thing because by naming something you define it. Look back at your childhood days…if you were given a nickname at school, how long did that stick? It stuck forever. We have as humans an immense capacity of naming things. By naming something we put it in a box and it becomes defined and clear in its structure.
I will give you another example: for instance, if you call something a “problem” then from the beginning it changes your entire physiology. If you think about it and if you look back at your situation…every time you name something a “problem” it basically creates the mindset that this is going to be something that is difficult, this is going to something that might be even impossible, this is something that is associated with failure. You see, all these things just by giving something a name. By giving something a name you change all these things and we are very fast in giving things names and in particular calling things “problems”. Given this implication that I just told you about, it is quite dangerous to do.
In big companies and corporations, they identified this and what they do is, they try to encourage their people to come up with a so-called “problem statement”. They say: “look don’t go and do things about things that might not be a problem, define the problem really in its entirely and very very specifically, what is really the problem”. If you look at this at the end of the day these original “problems” are actually just situations that a company might want to change. To give you an example, a company might struggle with the fact that people do not have enough access to their medication. That’s not a problem per se, because it’s not a problem to people. People don’t even know that this medication exist. It is a situation that the company wants to change.
Summing up this first point when I said the problem is only a problem if you call it a problem: it’s very important that you say and define “is this something that I can call a problem or is it just a simple situation that I want to change”?
A problem is only a problem if you surrender to the problem. If you decide not to do something about it then it’s a problem. Because the problem that you don’t do anything about, is going to remain a problem and it’s going to get worse. If you have financial issues and you’re -for instance- in dept, then this is going to stay like this if you don’t do anything about it. But look at this, if you instead decide to do something about it and you say “I’m going to tackle the problem” then all of a sudden it becomes a project. Because then all you have to do is you create a road map, you create a couple of to do’s and then you have an exact plan of how to overcome the problem.
Let me give you a couple of examples on this particular later point which is about “do something about the problem”. When I talk to people I get a lot of things like “Oh I have a problem, I don’t make enough money”. Then I go to these people and I say, “first you don’t MAKE money, banks make money, banks print money on paper out of nothing. But you EARN money.” My question to these people would be “How do you earn money? You earn money by adding value. So what have you done about adding value? Have you looked at the value that you add in your company to analyze whether what you want to have as compensation is actually worth what you are offering?” This is the kind of a thinking that should go behind it.
Another thing is people come and say, “I have a problem, I have so many things to do”. And then I say” Okay, so what are you busy about?” Because chances are people have forgotten about all these things they have to do. They don’t have the overview of the things they have to do. And all they remember is that it was a lot. What they remember and took over all these years is “I always have a lot to do and always had a lot to do, so I still always have a lot”. But, if they would actually sit down and look at their tasks and create an overall picture and differentiate the tasks that are urgent versus important, look at the things that need to be done now versus that need to be done for later. Then all of a sudden, this is not going to be a problem because it becomes a very clearly identified project that you need to tackle and you will have a road map and tasks to do that. That was number two that, a problem is only a problem if you surrender to it and you don’t do anything about it.
The third thing is to look at the other side of problems. Problems are always looked at negatively because you call them “problems”. And “problem”, the name is associated heavily with something that is debilitating and blocking people. But problems are also a good thing. There are three things that I could share with you, that find are on the positive side of problems.
First: A problem is an opportunity for you to change something. A problem is always a signal. You can think of the signal coming from a higher source like God if you are religious, or you can think of it like karma or you can think of this as random. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. The reality is that this is a signal and its tells you that you have been hitting your head against the wall and maybe you should consider changing your approach or changing even the way that you looked at the whole thing in the first place. So it’s an opportunity for you to change something that is not going well.
Second: It gives you an opportunity to define the person you want to become. The current problem is a problem for you right now. It’s a problem for the person that you are right now, for that draft version of you, for that work-in-progress version of you. It’s not a problem maybe for the person ten years from now that you could be. Because the person ten years from now might solve it. So if you sit back and say, how would I tackle this problem as an ideal me? What would an ideal me do? How would an ideal me solve this problem? This allows you to think a little bit outside of your current situation and even define the person that you want to become. This is big because people love problem solvers and this is going to put you much higher in their view, your profile will become much more valuable.
Third: It allows you to grow. This is linked to what I said before that if you don’t do anything about it you are not going to get the problem go away. But if you do something about it and you take little baby steps to solve the problem, not only will you solve the problem as it is right now, even more you will actually grow and you will be able to tackle even bigger problems. With problem after problem, after problem, you will become the biggest problem solver that you can imagine for yourself and you will get the self confidence that you need in order to not be afraid of problems anymore.
These three things were the ones that I wanted to share with you. Number one, as I said is to be very conscious and careful about what you really call a “problem” in the first place. Naming something is defining it; it blocks the creative thinking, the creative mind that you have in you in order to move things forward. Number two, you need to do something about the problem. You will not fear problems as soon as you put an agenda and a road map behind it in order to tackle it. Number three, look at problems as what they ALSO are. Yes, they might be debilitating and a burden on your shoulders right now, but they are an opportunity for you to change, to look at other ways to do things, to become a better person and to grow personally.
As a bonus, I wanted to offer you a small framework. Five steps on how to tackle problems in case they occupy your mind and you can’t get rid of them. Five simple steps for you to get some peace of mind.
Step number one
If you get these problems and thoughts in the middle of the night, feel free to ignore them. Unless it’s a big health issue and you can’t breathe at night, then maybe you better call a doctor or something…but if it is a normal problem a stupid thought that comes to your mind, feel free to ignore it. Our body has the insane capability to create problems in the middle of the night out of nothing. I’m sure this is related to some hormones and internal transmitters and modulators and all these chemical substances that are floating inside of us. That actually things appear much, much worse in the middle of the night than they would normally. You will have experienced this as well. You are lying sweating in your bed, thinking anxiously about things you might have forgotten, you stand up, you take thousands of notes all over the place, on your hand, on the wall, and then you wake up, freshen up, you see the day light, you brush your teeth…all of a sudden these problems are not big problems anymore. And you are in a complete different state of mind compared to when you were lying in your bed in the middle of the night. So, again if these things come in the middle of night please feel free to ignore them. It is something that is not reflecting reality and you should be aware that this is not the reality.
Step number two.
You should try and separate the urgency from the problem that you perceive you have. Very often the only reason why we perceive something to be a big problem is because there is a certain urgency to this. “OMG, I need to do this now, I need to give the presentation tomorrow, I need to book the flight now otherwise the price will increase double fold”. If you separate the urgency from the actual problem, it will give you some peace of mind and some capacity to access the problem in the first place.
Step number three.
Take a step back and now with a calmer view, accept the problem and address the problem. So, what you’re going to do here, in the third step, is that you look at the problem, define it clearly (what is it here that I’m really afraid of?) and look at the consequences and probabilities of it. This is a very, very important piece because what often happens is that, and you will have experienced this many many times, your mind plays tricks on you. You start with a very, very simple thing like for instance “I couldn’t book the flight”, and your mind overblows this and goes from “I couldn’t book the flight” to, “I couldn’t book the flight, I will not be able to go to my in-laws, my in-laws will talk back to my wife, my wife will divorce me, I will loose the kids, I will die under the bridge poor without anything to eat”. This is what happen naturally, you know, don’t trust your mind in this regard because this is something that again does not reflect reality and this is something that is exaggerated.You need to take a step back, you need to look at the problem, and you need to assess the consequences. What is the worst that can happen here really? And look at the probabilities that this really, really can happen. Ok, now you’re calm, now you have access to the problem. Now we go to step four.
Step number four.
Step number four means “what can I do about it?” Is it me who can do something about it? Or actually is it something that is an environmental issue? Let’s take again the same example with the flight to illustrate this. Can I just, go to the web site and book the flight? Is that all I need to do in order to get the peace of mind? Or maybe is the website down, because of some technical issue on the company’s side? There are some things that you can do and some things that you can’t do. This is the step where you actually assess what you are able to do and then start by doing some baby steps in order to resolve that.
Step number five.
Finally, no matter how much you do, no matter how much you plan, things will go wrong. This is the lesson of life. There will always be something that you will not have considered, things that will go wrong and it is okay. You need to accept that things will go wrong and you need to embrace that things will go wrong. If things go wrong, don’t be mad at it, don’t struggle with it. Just accept it, and just take the lesson, because after all that’s what we are here to do. We need to take the lesson and to learn so that next time we can do it much, much better.
So, here is your five steps framework in order to tackle a problem. In summary, number one was to ignore it if it comes in the middle of the night. Number two was to dissociate and separate the urgency from the actual problem. Number three was to look at the problem and look at the consequences and the probabilities to re-adjust your mind to what actually the reality is vs. what is in your head. Number four was to look into what you can actually do. If there is something that you can do or it is just an environmental issue. And number five was to accept that things will go wrong and that even if things go wrong there is always a lesson for you to learn.
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