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Sometimes, How You Look at the Problem is the Problem

A few years ago, in a conversation with one of my mentors, I explained that I was dealing with a particular problem that was weighing heavily on my mind.

As I described the situation, he listened intently, seeking to understand what I was saying. Then he said something that absolutely took me by surprise. I was expecting empathy, sympathy, and possible solutions.

Instead, he said: “Who says your problem’s a problem?”

I replied, “What do you mean? I just told you the situation. Of course it’s a problem, and I’ve got to figure out what to do.”

He went on to explain, “Yes, I understand you have a situation here that you’re dealing with. But who says that it is a problem? With every problem, there is an opportunity. And I believe you really have a big opportunity here to explore and make the most of, instead of a problem to manage. That is, if you choose to see it that way.”

Next, he helped me look at my situation from different angles and perspectives. Then he shared some possible courses of action that I could take, and the potential results of those decisions…both in the short-term and a few years down the road.

One thing I noticed was that some solutions, which seem to have the lowest cost right now, have higher costs down the road. And I’m not just talking money, but also our energy, emotions, relationships, goals, etc.

Later, when our conversation came to a close, I thanked my mentor for helping me gain a new perspective on my situation. He gave me some real hope for what I thought was more of a hopeless situation.

As he left, he gave me another pearl of wisdom that took a minute to sink in…but once I got it, I got it. He said:

“Sometimes, how you look at a problem is the problem.”

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Comment by Ann Musico on September 19, 2012 at 10:17am

Ah, now that is something to sit and think on!!! Awesome.

Comment by Rich Avery on September 19, 2012 at 10:08am

Ann, thanks for your comment.  Another interesting spin on this is a concept I think I first heard from David Allen and Mark Victor Hansen:  Make a list of all the ways you could profit (make money) from your problems. 

Comment by Ann Musico on September 19, 2012 at 5:41am

That statement is priceless!  I totally agree and find myself slipping into that way of thinking you described at the beginning.  I will definitely remember this statement and stop and turn the problem over and find the opportunity!

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