Happy New Year!
2020 is out (good riddance) and 2021 is finally here and off to a great start. We have a blank page in front of us – 365 days we can fill with all types of great experiences – YES, even in the midst of covid. The question is, will you focus more on problems or on solutions?
While I hope for your life to be problem-free, I recognize that’s most likely not fully in the cards. We will always have problems of some sort, but we can certainly eliminate many of them.
How do we do that?
Problems are like bed-bugs, it’s hard to get rid of them, right? WRONG! Be careful on what you compare your problems to. If you see them as “monsters” or other unconquerable villains, you’ll get paralyzed into inactions. Instead choose to see them for what they are – little annoyances in your life that need your attention. Most problems are more like mosquitoes – see it, aim at it, whack it!
Stop Chasing Your Tail – Paralysis by Analysis
When you are faced with a problem, dilemma, or a big choice with far-reaching effects, where do you turn your focus? Are you a problem-centric person or a solution-centric person?
Many people focus on the problem, trying to figure out its intricacies. They expand it, stretch it, and discuss it until they know the problem really well. For example, if you want to lose weight, you can talk all day long about that problem, and there are plenty of people who want to talk about it with you. “I’m not fit enough, struggle with health problems, I eat too much sugar, and so I’ll never meet anyone to date.” Or, “My hair is too long. It gets in my eyes, looks shabby, and feels greasy.”
So now they know the problem inside and out, but have nowhere to go except back in circles, just like a dog chasing its tail.
It’s easy to get addicted to our problems and stay stuck in problem-solving mode. It gives us something to whine about, something to talk about, and doesn’t require much work to stay immersed in the problem. It gives us a project to focus on, and it also draws the attention of others.
Focus on the Solution
Instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solution. Start by listing all the potential ideas for solving the problem, note the possible effects from an impending decision, choose the right course of action to solve the issue, and take action!
For example, if you want to lose weight and get more fit, stop focusing on that, and start focusing on how you’re going to change what you eat, and make a plan for more exercise. Plan it and implement it! Or if your hair is too long and is causing all sorts of issues, what’s the obvious solution? Get a haircut.
Look at the time and effort saved. All of that talk and discussion about the problem, and the thought and energy required to analyze and over-analyze, can be skipped.
Why do we tend to focus on the problem and not the solution? Because it’s easier to discuss, worry, and elaborate on the problem part of an issue. We understand the problem, we know what we’re saying when we elaborate on it. But the solution? Well, that’s more difficult because a solution usually involves work of some sort. And, a solution makes the problem go away. Sometimes we can’t believe it’s so easy to solve a problem, so instead of accepting a solution, we opt for more discussion of the issue.
Additionally, with a solution, one has to commit to a direction. What choice should you make? What if it’s the wrong one? By focusing only on the problem, it still leaves our options for solutions open. But by doing this, we merely drag out the problem.
If you don’t want to be stuck with a problem, choose a solution, decide on when and how you’ll implement it, and pull the trigger – take action. Take the risk of making the wrong decision knowing the chances are pretty good you’ll make the right one. Additionally, if the first decision didn’t solve the problem, at least now you know what doesn’t work and can try something else, then something else, until you find the right solution. Fortunately, with most problems all you’ll have to do is try one solution and it’ll become history. What’s important is not to get stuck in ‘problemitis’ mode.
As a (not so) famous modern day author says, “Neither words nor worry affect outcome, only action does.”—Larry Jacobson
Wishing you all a Happier New Year, with way fewer problems!