The Problem Paradox

Aug 14, 2023
Do you know what the REAL problem is? Are you sure?

I ask because I've had FAR too many experiences where the "problem" changed in the blink of an eye.

I think the problem isn't really the problem. The problem is how we look at and feel about the problem.

In the immortal words of Captain Jack Sparrow, "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem."

Having a problem is generally seen as, well, a problem, right? Most of us are conditioned to believe that problems are bad and try to avoid them at all costs.

But are problems really a problem?

"Fact is... Not having worrisome problems would cost us great solutions. It would also cost us the adventure of discontent, the thrill of creativity, and the joy of discovery. Great ideas and inventions which bring us amusement, joy, better health, safety, contentment, a higher standard of living would be lost if we didn't have problems to solve.
...If we don't know something is wrong, we are hardly in a position to make it right. Pain is a signal that something isn't right. That makes it just as valuable as the pleasure we seek from the relief of pain." - Pathological Positivity - Paul H. Jenkins

All of life/existence is nothing but a series of challenges/struggles that we are consistently and continually facing/overcoming.

If we use the Oxford definition of a problem as "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome," then there isn't a situation in life that needs to be a problem unless we decide to take a negative view on it.

The problem with challenges and struggles turning into "problems" is that once we take a negative view on it, our ability to deal with and overcome the problem is dramatically reduced. The moment we see the problem as something out of our control, as something that happens to us, as someone else's fault, a mental switch gets flipped. All of a sudden, we seem to have no power to change things. Our thoughts change from creative inquiry to simply trying to find evidence for whatever "reality" we've honed in on, and suddenly we become a victim to people and circumstances.

But let's take a results approach. Shawn Achor (Author of The Happiness Advantage) shared this from his famous TED Talk.

"We're finding it's not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.
If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is that your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we've found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed. You're 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral, or stressed.
If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster, and more intelligently."


A huge part of a parent's job is to help their children learn how to solve problems. Math problems, English problems, Science problems, relationship problems, social problems, tying your shoes and learning how not to fall problems, taking a shower and hygiene problems, dealing with friends and frenemies problems, dealing with rejection and failure and anxiety problems, how to make and invest money problems, how to navigate politics and personalities and "sometimes you did nothing wrong, but still get in a car accident" problems.

And if done well, a parent helps them face all of these problems without fear and apprehension, but with optimism and curiosity. They help them realize that "failure" is part of the process and simply the opposite side of the coin labeled "success." We help them realize that if you aren't "failing," then you're not trying hard enough! That if you're pushing yourself to learn and grow, you'll always be at the edges of your understanding and limits. And that life, with its challenges and struggles, can still be filled with happiness and enjoyment, even when it's hard.


Let’s end this with a poem - Worst Day Ever?

Today was the absolute worst day ever.
Don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be obtained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
The reality
My attitude
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never hear me say that
Today was a good day.

Now read it from bottom to top, the other way,
And see what I really feel about my day.



"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." ~ Wayne Dyer


The problem isn't the problem. The problem is how I look at and feel about the problem. Change the way you look at it, and you’ll find pathways to solutions you simply couldn’t see before.


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