The Problem with Solving Problems

When I lived in the UK, one of my favourite TV shows was Countdown – a gameshow involving word and number problems the contestants were challenged to solve. I first discovered it when I was working as a live-in carer for a woman who was housebound due to age and fragility. Every weekday afternoon we would park ourselves in her front room, decorated with family photos and too many ceramic figurines, flick on the TV and immerse ourselves in numbers and letters. Did it become a bit competitive between the two of us? Absolutely!

When we solve a problem or complete a puzzle, we experience feelings of achievement and gratification. We feel as though we are relevant in the world - if we have the ability to understand our surroundings and how they work, that must mean we ‘belong’. And, as Maslow tells us, feeling a sense of belonging is one of our most basic human needs.

The ability to problem solve gives us some control over our external environment. We can see where something is ‘broken’ and fix it. We can make decisions for ourselves and others, which may bring us joy. We can be creative and imaginative and bring visions and dreams into our reality.

We are taught and encouraged to solve problems from an early age - via our educational system (numerical and verbal), our primary care-givers (‘they have to learn to work it out for themselves’) and sometimes our peers (schoolyard politics can be the worst!).

The way we are taught to solve problems serves us well when the dilemmas are small or ‘biteable’. Most of us are adept at solving small issues or quandaries quite easily, and do so regularly throughout our day. If you Google ‘how to solve a problem’ a myriad of links appear, the options ranging from a 3-step process to a 10-step process. Words used include: understand, strategise, brainstorm, implement, define, identify...etc. You can do this within minutes, sometimes seconds, with everyday complications.

If there are tried-and-tested processes on how to solve a problem, we’ve been taught how to use them from an early age, and we are quite proficient at it, why, do we sometimes find ourselves stuck? Or, after we've worked through the 3 or 10-step process, why have we landed in a place that does not brings us happiness or fulfillment? Because ,many traditional teachings of problem solving all encourage one similar thing – to Focus On The Problem. Don’t get distracted. Don’t allow your mind to wander. Stay engaged. Stick at it. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. You’ll Find The Answer.

But, when the problem is new, bigger than ever before, or layered in complication, your thinking is required to expand to the next level. If you try the traditional method of Focusing On The Problem, and the solution doesn't appear quickly, you may spiral into obsession…anxiety…feelings of failure…fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision…worry… hopelessness…sleepless nights…and before you know it stress has arisen in your mind and body. You can’t think of anything else and it’s driving you crazy!! You may even begin to hide your problem from your friends and family because you feel so forlorn that you can’t ‘find’ the solution – bringing forth feelings of disconnection and isolation. WOW! No one wants any of that. But does it sound familiar?

Here’s the thing…the solution to your problem is not within the problem. When you focus on the problem, and nothing but the problem, it’s impossible to find the solution. The solution lies outside the problem.

So what can you do instead? Instead of me doing the same thing and giving you a process, I’m going to share a story – the short version.

The 100-year old house Handsome Hubby and I bought in 2014 was in dire need of some major renovations. For four years we could not get builder + finances + council approval, aligned. For four years we Focused On The Problem. We strategised, brainstormed, worried about it, bored our friends and family talking about it and yes, obsessed over it. Christmas Eve 2018 rolled around and we finally had the builder and finances in place, now we needed the council. HH decided to visit them in person. Ever the optimist, his parting words were ‘I’m going to create a Christmas miracle’. Unfortunately, the council was not granting miracles that day and he returned home a broken man.

Seeing him so disappointed awoke something in me - I Was Done With This Renovation. We sat down together and made an agreement that we were not think about it again for two weeks, deciding to focus on family and friends and festivities instead. It was such a relief, and completely freeing, to let it all go. I excitedly and very happily immersed myself in Christmas and holiday plans.

All it took was three days. Count them, three. Three days later I sat bolt upright in bed at 3am, with inspirational ideas swirling through my mind. Compelled to get up, I crept quietly in into the kitchen, grabbed a notepad and started transferring the thoughts, that by now were coming thick and fast (I honestly had zero control over them) onto paper. One sheet of paper for each room. By the time HH joined me in the kitchen later than morning I had redesigned the entire project. We did not need council approval, we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and it was completed within the next four months. Problem Solved. By NOT Focusing On The Problem.

If up-level thinking, inspirational thought and creation is something you’d love to immerse yourself in, with me as your coach, there are a couple of opportunities to do so right now. Scroll down to check them out. It all starts with one conversation. A Salon is a welcoming, safe, nurturing space where you come together with like-minded souls and leave completely transformed. You exit the doors feeling like a new, more empowered, more confident person. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE or hit reply to this email to book a conversation with me. Have you grabbed your copy of Become Extraordinary, the book, yet? This is is a book not designed to be read once and placed on a shelf. It contains Janelle's very own personal stories (some not so flattering), real client case studies (so inspirational) and activities and tools so you can begin your own adventure. CLICK HERE to order a soft copy or ebook.

Until I see you again, stay healthy and safe. I invite you to step away from a major problem you may be struggling with right now - the results may surprise you!

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