Posted on May 26th, 2006

Everyone, in one way or another, has some number of problems that bother them. Some people can’t remember names. Some people have difficulty concentrating. I could write page after page just listing some of the many weaknesses people deal with, related to everything from their physiological make up to their socioeconomic background to their attitudes and thoughts. Other problems come from outside of us. Other people can be rude. Cars can break down. The weather may become unpleasant.

Whatever your own personal problem is, it holds you back in some way. Maybe it only slows you down from achieving your goals, or maybe it truly has prevented you from finding lasting happiness. Whatever your problems may be, they are yours to deal with, and they are there whether you like it or not. How is one to deal with such problems? There are a variety of ways, concepts, and strategies that may be utilized, and I would like to mention a few that may be the most impactful.

1. Don’t deal with the problem, just live with the negative consequences

Some people never try to deal with a problem. Sometimes, it works. For example, if an overcast sky is somehow posing a problem, all you have to do is wait. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of time, and circumstances change, eliminating a problem with no effort on your part. It is important to recognize these situations when they arise, because your time and energy could be better used elsewhere, on the things you want to deal with.

Ignoring a problem isn’t always the best course of action, though. Take, for example, someone who never bothers to house train their pet. For as long as they have that pet, it will go to the bathroom. That particular problem won’t disappear after a day or two, but will persist. If the problem isn’t directly dealt with and the pet trained, there are still unpleasant consequences to deal with. This pet will go to the bathroom somewhere, and chances are high that it will be where ever you keep the pet. If you keep the pet in your home, you are asking for trouble, not to mention the lasting effects of such a problem. It’s fairly clear that this problem needs a solution.

2. Change how you see the problem

Sometimes, the real problem lies in how we see things. If you aren’t aware of the facts and circumstances, you may think you face problems that aren’t really problems at all! The other day, I taught my friend’s daughter how to use the TV’s remote control. Being young, she still doesn’t know her numbers very well, and has yet to make a connection between the channel numbers on the TV and the shows she likes to watch. At one point, she got frustrated and said, “How can I remember how to do stuff when there are all these other buttons on here?” Not understanding such things as numbers and channels, she was frustrated by the number buttons, which are actually quite helpful! Very often, our own problems are this way – instead of seeing the water in the glass, we see the empty half. Not knowing how a medication helps us, we complain about how inconvenient it is to take a medication. Not understanding the purpose for the rules of the road, we feel hindered by things such as stop signs, speed limits and one way streets. When we see things clearly, many problems disappear.

3. Remove the cause of the problem.

Many have heard the joke about the doctor whose patient was experiencing tremendous discomfort. During their appointment, the patient told the doctor exactly what the problem was. He would sometimes experience pronounced dizziness and sharp pains in his neck. He was concerned, worried that this might indicate something terrible. Finally, looking for answers, the doctor asked when these dizzy spells and neck pains occurred. Cocking his head at a funny angle and then spinning violently around, the patient demonstrated what caused these problems. Dizzy, with a sore neck, the patient stopped spinning and asked the doctor what to do. ‘Simple’ the doctor replied. ‘Don’t do that!’

Perhaps my problem is that I can’t wake up on time in the mornings. I need to be at work by seven, but I just can’t ever seem to get myself out of bed in the mornings. It’s a serious problem, one that could cost me my job. But what if the cause is that I like to stay up until two-thirty in the morning to watch my favorite late night TV show? The solution is suddenly clear – go to bed earlier, and the difficulty in the morning will disappear! Often, our problems are really the negative consequences of separate problems we haven’t dealt with yet.

4. Work around the problem.

Many problems can’t be ignored or easily fixed. If I lost a leg in an auto accident or due to a disease that necessitated its removal, no change of view could make that problem disappear. No action could undo its removal. Regardless of the cause, there is a reality that must be faced and dealt with.

In these situations, one must simply work around the problem. If I were missing a leg, I could use a crutch or prosthesis to manage in spite of such a debilitating problem. I could lessen the problem by adapting to it. If it makes it difficult to get up the stairs to return home, I could change my circumstances to lessen that aspect of the problem by living in a first floor apartment instead of on the third.

If I have a poor memory and often loose my keys, I could simply replace my keys every time I lost them. I could remove all of the locks and eliminate the need for keys, thus removing the cause of the problem. The only drawback is that this problem could be easily solved. Instead of trying to remember where your keys are, just put them in the same place, removing the need to remember where you might have put them. If that doesn’t quite work, get a keychain with a retractable tether, and let it keep your keys for you. When a problem persists, it is sometimes best to work around it.

5. Move beyond the problem.

Many times, the problem is found in our own reactions, rather than in our circumstances. If someone is regularly rude to me at my bus stop, is it really a problem? They don’t cost me more money, or disrupt my workday. Instead, the problem lies with me. Regardless of what this other person has said or done, I have the ability to react in a variety of ways. Instead of reacting negatively towards this person, I could respond with love. I could simply ignore them, pretending not to even acknowledge their existence. I could ask them why they are so rude. Often with these sorts of problems, we must simply decide that it is not a problem, and move on. Even if the old rudeness continues, we deal with it in a different way, making it a non-problem.

Brian Westover is an author specializing in personal motivation and growth. He is also the director of Project Superhero, an exploration of human potential. To learn more about the author or about Project Superhero, please visit Project Superhero.

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