What’s Your Problem?!

We all have problems.  We deal with them every day.  Can you even imagine going through an entire day without facing at least one problem?  What would that feel like?  Heaven?!

In striving to live the playground heaven life I think of problems as “Bullies.”  You know, those kids who are determined to ruin everybody’s fun just because they are unhappy.  It’s harder to be happy with a bully on the loose.

While people can definitely be bullies, in most cases our problems are caused by situations or things. And if it is a person bullying us, that person is likely to be ourselves.  Yes, we often think, say, or do things that cause our own problems.

My all-time favorite quote about problems comes from Albert Einstein.  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Here’s my most recent example for your entertainment.  Feel free to laugh at my expense.

As I drove into our garage on a cold and windy day following a trip to the gym, I noticed trash was collecting all over our yard.  It was recycle bin collection day.  The wind had blown the lids open all the way down the block.  Our home is upwind, on the corner, with a hill and trees to stop the flight of the recyclables.

I jumped out of my truck and started chasing and picking up cans, bottles, papers, and the like.  I thought this would be a quick chore, but a seemingly endless supply of litter kept coming.  I felt like a can stopping goalie.  To keep this short, I spent the next half hour collecting and depositing rubbish until the pick-it-up truck came along.

That’s when I noticed I no longer possessed my truck key.  In my haste to clean up waste, I had put the key in my glove covered hand.  I realized I had dropped it in the bin along with my first junk deposit.  Nice work, Scott!  Hey Melanie, can I borrow your truck key … permanently?  Problem solved.  New level of thinking: put your key in your pocket before picking up litter.

Back to the point.  We all have problems that can rob us of our happiness if we let them.  But we won’t let them!  Here are the three keys steps to dealing with any bully, whether they be situations, things, people, or ourselves.

Step Number 1 – Adopt an “I can defeat all bullies” mindset.

  • Accept that there will always be problems in your life. Knowing this truth helps eliminate the element of surprise that causes us to react to problems, rather than to act upon them.
  • Learn to see problems as opportunities. Facing and overcoming them helps us to learn how to avoid them in the future and to build our fortitude.  Look for the good in your bullies.
  • Approach your problems using the virtue of patience, not the vice of wrath (anger). Stay calm, be patient, use logic to overcome your emotions.
  • Never let the bully win. How you choose to face your bully is under your complete control. You can choose to wallow in your sorrows and believe you have a dark cloud always hanging over your head.  Have you heard about the curse of the self-fulfilling prophesy?  Or you can choose to deal with it, solve it, and move on to happier times.  Yes, please do that!
  • Be grateful that your problems aren’t worse. I just learned this one from a guy who has spent the last 33 years in a wheel chair.  He shared his trials with a group of us.  I hadn’t really understood what that kind of life would be like.  Now I do.  His problems are much worse than any of mine.  Interestingly, he thinks others have it worse.  He said that if we could each put all of our problems into one bag, throw them in a pile, see what is in each other’s bag, and then choose one to take home, we would all choose to take our own bag back.   No doubt.

Step Number 2 – Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this really a problem? We often create problems in our own minds.  We imagine things that aren’t there.  We assume things that aren’t true.  People talk us into thinking there is a problem where none exists.  We obsess over little things that don’t matter in the larger scheme of life.  We are good at creating mountains out of molehills.  I have too many examples running through my head to be able to share succinctly, I’ll bet you do too.  Enough said.
  • If it is a problem, is it yours to deal with? People love to give their problems away to others.  I once had a colleague who kept a toy stuffed monkey in his office.  The monkey represented a problem.  As people came to him with problems he would throw them the monkey and state that at the end of the conversation one of them would be holding the monkey, and it wouldn’t be him.  So smart!  Make sure the monkey is really yours to hold onto and solve.
  • Can you do something about it? Sometimes we have problems that have no immediate solutions.  Or the solution is outside of our control.  For the time being we just have to accept it, do the best we can, and patiently await a future opportunity to resolve it. I choose to have faith that things will work out for the best in the end.

Step Number 3 – Beat up on the bully.  Obviously not literally, but do solve the problem.  Once you have determined there is a problem, that it is yours to solve, and that you can do something about it, do the following:

  • Deal with it, don’t delay. No procrastination allowed.  Confront your bully immediately.  Challenge it to meet you after school on the playground.  Don’t let your problems fester.  Don’t let a molehill become a mountain.  Small problems can become big if ignored for too long.  Plus, they weigh heavily on your mind, impacting your mood and ability to focus on the more important things in life, like your happiness.
  • Gang up on the bully. Enlist the help of friends. Two heads are better than one, especially when your one is probably highly emotional and in need of a more calm and logical counterpart.
  • Find the real problem. Often what we think is the problem is actually a symptom of a larger problem.  Like my throwing the car key away is a symptom of a larger impatience problem.  Get to the root cause of your problem.
  • Solve it now and forever. Once you know the real cause of a problem you can find a solution that will solve it forevermore.  Don’t rush to a quick fix that allows for the problem to reappear. Huh, I wonder how long it’s going to take to become patient … 60 years and counting … hurry up!

So, what’s your problem?  Your challenge for the week is identify the biggest problem you face.  The one that is impacting your ability to be continuously happy.  The one that if solved has the potential to grow your happiness exponentially.  Then develop a plan of attack to defeating that bully, and do one thing immediately that leads you closer to winning the battle.  There, I’ve handed you the monkey.  Take care of it well:-)

Tell you what, I’ll join you.  I’m off to solve a problem right now.  I’ll tell you what it was next week.

To Your Happiness, Scott

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