“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”
From time to time we ask ourselves, “When will life get easier?” The truth is probably never.
Problems are a part of life. They don’t go away with more money or greater success. There are just different problems.
Problems are not a flaw to be eliminated but rather a feature of being alive. The key is reframing problems to see the potential benefits.
The Benefits of Solving Problems
Problems present us with opportunities to:
- Build Resilience
- Make Forward Progress in Life
- Appreciate the Everyday and Take Less for Granted
- Earn a Living
Let’s dive into each one a little further.
“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” — Albert Einstein
Without problems, life would be boring. Problems give us the chance to unleash our creativity and figure out new ways to do things.
We typically learn more from bad outcomes (problems) than good outcomes. Problems encourage us to think about what could have been done differently.
“Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.” — Charles De Montesquieu
Problems, especially little ones, are training for the bigger ones. Problems allow us to prove to ourselves that we can overcome challenges. That self confidence helps us a lot when the challenges get harder to solve (e.g. a serious illness or a long recovery.)
Repeated studies have shown that those who see hard work and effort (rather than purely innate ability) as part of facing challenges, are more likely to overcome problems and achieve better long-term results.
Make Forward Progress in Life
“Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.”
― Anthony Robbins
One certain outcome of hard times is personal growth and learning. We are forced to push our boundaries and even if we don’t get to our ideal outcome we are forced to make progress. Forward progress is highly satisfying. It reinforces our sense of agency and control, which in turn has a positive impact on wellbeing.
Think back to the best lessons in your professional or personal life. They almost always resulted from challenges, problems, and negative outcomes.
Appreciate the Everyday and Take Less for Granted
“Don’t it always seem to go…That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
— Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
With the right reframing, problems can be a good reminder to practice gratitude. There is a lot in our lives that has gone well and many challenges that we have overcome. Spending some time remembering the good things in our everyday life which we take for granted is a path to better emotional and psychological health.
Earn a Living
“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
— General Colin Powell
Customers pay businesses and employers pay employees to solve problems and get jobs done.
If you are great at solving problems which unleash value or avoid extra cost you will get paid a lot for that.
Equally valuable is anticipating future problems and creating workarounds to avoid them or reduce their severity
When people bring you problems it is a sign of trust and respect. They know you will both treat them well and help them find a solution.
Not Every Problem is Worth Solving
It is important to know when to adapt, compromise or change priorities. Problems can be a good reminder that not everything matters equally. And, not every problem requires a solution. Sometimes, we are simply asked to listen, witness, share our time, and show we care about others.