There are some people who think there is a problem to every solution, but I say there is a solution to every problem.
I’m an eternal optimist. I’m not always positive, but I’m always optimistic. This is because I just know, from experience, that there is always a solution, an answer will come, time will pass and pain will ease, there is guidance all around us, support is there if we ask, obstacles can be busted through, or worked around, detours can be taken, mountains can be climbed…I TRUST in all of this.
Instead of focusing all of my attention on what the problem is, or finding a problem for every solution, which is emotionally draining and not productive, I use that same energy to focus on what I actually can do to solve the problem. It takes the same amount of energy to focus on the problem than it does to focus on the solution. One just feels so much better.
Pre-contagiously positive days, if there was a problem at work I would get sucked into the negative vortex of finding a problem to every single solution. This just wasn’t productive because it took so long to actually even come to a solution that we were willing to take action on. This caused so many unnecessary delays, stress, frustration, worry and anxiety. When I decided that it would be easier, and way less stressful to have a solution based mindset, things flowed with so much more ease. Even if it wasn’t the right solution, at least there was positive aligned action taking place, and the moral was better, internally and externally. And, because of that, there was always another solution just waiting to be put into action. Overtime, practicing this turned me into an eternal optimist because I began to trust in this with all of my being. I reprogrammed my brains default from, “oh fuck, I’m never getting out of this one,” to, “this currently sucks, but I’ve got it, I’ll (we’ll) figure it out.”
Take a moment to do some inner inquiry. Where are you stuck in the idea that there is no solution to a problem you have? For example: maybe it is something with your health, relationships, finances, a problem at work, or perhaps even with the situation we are in now with COVID-19. What are three solutions, even if they seem ridiculous, that you can possibly shift your focus towards to help you get out of Problem Land and take a few aligned action steps towards Solution-Ville? This isn’t about going from 0 (the problem) to 60 (the solution and it is all better). This is about taking daily baby steps towards the outcome you want, while also feeling better about the situation emotionally and mentally along the way. Where your attention goes, your energy flows, so having a solution-based mindset helps clear away the clutter so you can actually be guided towards a solution.
You can train your brain to trust this with a little problem solving practice. Let’s take this even deeper.
BECOMING A MASTER PROBLEM SOLVER
Being a problem solver means accepting the situation or problem for what it is. Just name the problem. “I acknowledge that this [name it] is happening and I don’t know what to do about it yet.” Don’t sugar coat it, toss it in glitter or roll it in fluff – just name it, own it, accept it. And then, start throwing solutions at it.
I became dubbed the contagiously positive girl after practicing being a problem solver instead of always being a part of the problem. As I mentioned above, this was pre-contagiously positive days when I was working in the construction industry. My co-worker was in a frizzy over a problem, and I decided not to go down the rabbit hole where we didn’t think we could ever solve this, and I started to throw out every random solution I could think of at him. I even said things that I knew we would never do because they were so silly, but it defused his frustration (which is what I wanted) and he said, “You are so fucking contagiously positive.” After that, we sat down to have a conversation, rationally, and started to really plan out what we had to do. We did so with way less stress and way more ease because we were not in reaction mode, we were in problem solving mode.
Everything is a practice. We practice so we can master something. Whether it be practicing to learn an instrument, or running a marathon, or learning how to create beautiful art, it all starts with a daily practice of learning, doing, learning, doing, learning, doing. And there may be “failure” in there, but it really isn’t failure, it is a part of learning and practicing something so much until you master it. The same is true for reprogramming our brain to work for us, instead of against us. We practice, we learn, we do, and repeat, and voila, new neural pathways are formed in our brain and it becomes our default.
YOUR TURN TO PRACTICE: PROBLEM SOLVING RESILIENCE
I want to share with you two ways you can practice building up problem solving resilience and begin to master taking on any challenge that gets thrown your way.
1. If you can’t change the external situation, especially when it comes to overcoming a challenge with someone else, or a global event like we are in right now, it is important to shift your focus back to your internal world. Meaning, change your mind about it. You simply say, “I cannot control the external situation/problem/challenge I’m facing, so I am going to work on changing my perspective about it so that I don’t take up permanent residence in Negative-Ville.” You can do this by asking yourself a few simple questions and taking inventory or what is in and out of your control.
What do I have control over? It is usually just your attitude, your reaction, your response, and what you do next.
What don’t I have control over? For example, other people, what they believe, do, say, think, react and how they respond. External circumstances that happen outside of your control, like weather, or a global pandemic.
Where should my focus go to build up resilience to solving the problem you are in? This of course is the thing you actually have full control over, so be honest with yourself about what that is. Don’t get caught even further into the trap by trying to control the uncontrollable.
2. Changing your mind about something isn’t always easy, I totally get that. Trying not to control the uncontrollable and staying in our own lane is also difficult. I get that as well. This is a practice all on its own and one that I’m still working on mastering.
Begin this practice by accepting the situation or problem for what it is. By accept I don’t mean be a push over and let it happen over and over and over again. I mean, don’t ignore that you have a problem. Call it out and get yourself into problem solving mode.
If you are going to through any pixie dust around, make it solution glitter. “This is the problem [name it]. I can’t fix the problem with another problem, so I accept that I have this problem and now I’m going to shift my mind towards being a problem solver and start to think of all the solutions that I can take action on to be the solver of the problem, not be more of a problem to the problem.”
Make a list of all the potential solutions, and start working down the list until one gets you to where you want to be, or to how you want to feel. Maybe it will be the first one, maybe it will be the tenth, but eventually you will overcome the obstacle.
And that is how we begin to practice unleashing our problem solving resiliency power.
I will end with a really beautiful passage I read once. It read, “If you knew who walked beside you, you would never be afraid.” This has stuck with me. When I’m feeling really stuck, frustrated or hopeless, I am reminded of this and remember all the obstacles I’ve overcome in the past. You’ve got this, you just have to practice trusting and believing in yourself.