For most of my adult life I had two main beliefs about problems. First, that problems are unavoidable and secondly they are just part of life. I heard people say things such as the older you get the bigger the problems get. I never gave much thought to the idea of “more money, more problems.” Unconsciously, I accepted this as truth. I spent decades trapped by this notion that problems just exists and there was no escape from them, until now.
“The more you complain about your problems, the more problems you will have to complain about.” Zig Ziglar
Problems are most often tied to some negative occurrence or situation. Often they trigger negative thoughts, emotions and feelings. I wouldn’t have to stretch too far to say problems are easily associated with stress, which in turn is associated to major health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, “stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”
If you search for ways to deal with problems there is endless advice in articles and books on how to deal, cope and face your problems. However, the problems never go away and still always seem to exist. As problems eventually resolve new ones appear, and some linger for years or decades.
In his book Master Your Emotions, Thibaut Meurisse, offers his suggestion why problems don’t exist. The biggest take away in this section for me is that “a problem needs to be labeled as a problem to actually exist…otherwise there is no problem.” This idea turned my world upside down and gave me the seed I needed to develop a new perspective on the possibility of life without problems. The very thought of a problem-free life feels like an extremely liberating idea. Is it wishful thinking? Is it practical or even possible? I say absolutely.
As I dove into this thought deeper I resurfaced with a new empowering belief. Situations and things happen that feel like or appear to be misfortune and we classify, label and define these as problems. So much of life is beyond our control, no one can refute that. However, your mind that is held exclusively in the space between your two ears is within your control.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl
Through this lens, it became clear to me that I have a space to consciously decide how I choose to frame these “problems.” Ultimately, you and I can choose a life free from problems by adjusting how we choose to define these misfortunes and situations.
What if the next time something happens that you would normally label (or interpret) to be a problem, you decided to frame it as one of three options: an inconvenience, an obstacle or a roadblock? How empowering could this be in changing your response and minimizing any negativity you would otherwise associate to it if it were labeled a problem?
Inconvenience by definition can be a difficulty or disruption to our comfort. However, when we are inconvenienced, maybe we sigh and not feel the happiest, but the weight of the situation is significantly less than that of a problem. Therefore, the response to an inconvenience versus the response to what otherwise could be a problem is significantly less. You may better position yourself to move toward solution and away from greater negativity.
When I think of obstacles thoughts of Ninja Warrior and Spartan Races come to mind first if I am honest. It’s the hurdles and challenge of getting over, around or under something that I find more empowering. Using your strength, resources and mental toughness to get through the course ahead generate desire to conquer and succeed. By re-framing what could be a problem into an obstacle there is no room for negativity. Instead you can rise to the occasion and master what lies ahead.
Roadblocks are barricades or obstructions in our path on the way to a destination. When you decide to view a problem as a roadblock, you empower your mind to redirect and focus on finding the path around the barrier so stay on course to reach your destination. When I use GPS to travel and an unexpected roadblock happens, my GPS has never raised a white flag on the screen or said road trip over. Without hesitation, GPS automatically recalculates a new route. The ETA may change but the destination I have set is still the same.
The next time you experience a problem, I invite you to step into the space between that stimulus and your response that Viktor Frankl talked about. Can you fit this situation or mishap into one of three more empowering frames of reference? Could this be a mere inconvenience in your day or your week? Can you see this situation as an obstacle that can be used as a opportunity to be acrobatic, fluid, and resourceful to move through the course and stay on track? Or can this be a roadblock that challenges your creativity and pushes you out of your comfort zone?
Being problem free is not about running and hiding from the world or pretending things aren’t happening that need your attention. Being problem-free is about removing the negativity that can be debilitating. Its about freeing yourself of the negativity that can be draining and possibly leading you to being emotionally stuck. It’s about empowering yourself in the tough times. Problem-free is a frame of reference centered around real solutions that keep you moving toward your goals.