by Jason Demakis –
Life throws us curve balls all the time; it’s the nature of the game. How we choose to interpret these events (and how we define and label them on our personal scale of severity) is going to have a huge impact not only on our experience of perceived problems – but our ability to effectively work through them.
How this works is that our perceptions tend to break down into two main categories: problems as obstacles, and problems as opportunities. Let’s explore both in detail and extract as much personal empowerment as possible, shall we?
Problems as Obstacles
- Why can’t I find a good boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Why does making money have to be so hard?
- How am I ever supposed to get out of debt when I’m barely able to pay my bills NOW?
- Why do other people have so much more time and money than I do?
- I’m sick of being alone! Why does finding someone need to be so hard?
- Why do I have to be so overweight?
- Why is eating right so hard? Why can’t it be easier?
The above examples clearly represent the “problems as obstacles” paradigm. Every little thing that pops up in life becomes a nuisance. Anything out of the ordinary routine is perceived as a threat to your comfortability, and viewed as an annoyance. This in itself can lead to an eventual trap that’s very subtle, yet very real.
First, you’ll find your life becoming flooded with problems which aren’t easily solvable. This overwhelm will naturally lead you to indulge in escapism activities in order to cope and you’ll get all the “you’re living incongruently” signals from within yourself. Your mood will decrease, your apathy will increase and your motivation for progress and serious self-fulfillment will dwindle. Stress and anxiety will be your modus operandi.
Second, you might experience withdrawal instead of escapism. You’ll reduce your presence in certain areas in order to reduce the number of problems you’ll have to face. People tend to justify this type of move by labeling it something like “minimalism”. They’ll live alone and/or have very few friends (not that any of that is bad on its own!), favor work that’s easy and never really challenge themselves too much. No matter what is done, removed and avoided, however – problems still continue to arise.
Notice how each line references the situation as not only being difficult but with the expectation that a simpler solution should be immediately available. Guess what? Said solution isn’t usually available. This is what most people trapped in this way of thinking will keep searching for…and it’s the source of the very trap itself.
This is because you can’t solve your problem(s) from that level of thinking.
If you want to solve your problems – and solve them in any sort of long-term, beneficial way – you need to begin approaching them from the opposite end of the spectrum. This is because the opposite end of said spectrum is where obstacle transforms into opportunity,and the answers you seek will become clear as day for you.
Problems as Opportunities
Now let’s shift our focus to the opposite paradigm:
- Problems don’t exist in order to beat you down, causing strife, anxiety and overwhelm.
- They exist to help you grow stronger, more intelligent and more fulfilled.
Whenever you reach a problem experience in your life, it can be tempting to immediately assume that the entire point is to find the solution. Once you reach the solution, all is well and you’re off on your own again. Getting past the problem becomes the goal. This in itself is a very limiting perspective to hold, however.
A more empowering perspective is to consider that the activity of solving the problem(s) itself/themselves is what actually matters. The activity of problem solving – not the solution state itself – is what actually helps us grow and become empowered individuals.
Imagine for a moment that you’ve won the lottery. All of your money issues as they appear at present are solved. No more worry about paying bills, no more stress over unexpected expenses, and you can finally plan that lavish vacation you’ve always wanted. Several months down the road however, you find yourself completely broke and deep in debt. What happened?
If you were never good with balancing money to begin with – it doesn’t matter how much of it you acquire; you’ll find a way to spend, lose or waste it all. You didn’t solve the initial problem of increasing your inner strength and relationship to wealth, so your results suffered for it. You had piles of cash and still found a way to end up in a disadvantageous position.
Now imagine someone who has built a company from the ground up, paid their dues with years of experience and both failed and succeeded financially. This person probably has less money than you did when you won the lottery and yet they are able to keep making more and more money through their initial resources than you are – even when you were in your most advantageous financial position.
Why is that?
It’s because the second person solved their problems in regards to wealth by viewing them as opportunities, where as you viewed wealth as a problem that needed to be overcome. More accurately, you viewed scarcity/poverty thinking as a problem, with the solution being external wealth.
Without correcting and balancing the inner portion of this problem, the external can’t follow suit.
When you got your hands on some serious cash – and didn’t have a grip on problem solving – financial bankruptcy and debt are the natural (and expected) consequences.
If you went through the same learning process as the second wealthy person, you’d have a very different relationship to money and wealth. You’d view it as an opportunity because you’d eventually see and understand on a deep intrinsic level that resisting wealth from the position of obstacle is a fool’s errand. Eventually you’d no longer fear going broke, because you understand exactly how to generate money. It’s no longer an obstacle; it’s now an opportunity.
This is a very subtle yet powerful internal shift that can mean the difference between a peasant and a millionaire.
Intelligence often has less to do with financial success than the individual’s perception of the issues in front of them. Inner knowledge, strength, skill, and confidence are the true rewards of moving through problems. These are the very rewards which allow us to summon and generate the types of results which allow us to avoid the very problems that got us here in the first place.
Overcoming The Initial Overwhelm
When you begin living consciously, and start moving from problems as obstacles to problems as opportunities, it can indeed initially be somewhat overwhelming.
You’ll start to see all of the things you’ve been avoiding staring you right in the face, all at once. This is your first true test; recognize that these aren’t problems anymore. They’re opportunities for you to make yourself stronger, so you’ll never have to experience this disempowered state ever again.
Debt, a lousy job, a stale relationship, lack of purpose, out of shape, etc; these are all individual opportunities for you to achieve growth and strength in different areas of your life. Start with the lightest of the issues, just as you’d start with the lightest of weights in the gym. Train up to the heavier stuff. You’ll be surprised how quickly you move toward heavier weights once you really start building momentum.
If you don’t know which situation is the easiest (i.e. they all look overwhelming), just pick one and start there. Simply by taking action, you’ll increase your confidence to overcome these things. You must be bigger than your situation could ever hope to be.
This is the secret to transforming perceived obstacles into opportunities.
Facing these opportunities builds inner strength exactly like the gym builds physical strength. The more you perform this activity, the more you’ll grow. The stronger you’ll become. The easier this process will eventually be.
Problem solving also increases your resourcefulness. The more problems you get experience with solving, the better you’ll become at solving future problems. It’s a wonderful self-reinforcing mechanism, isn’t it? 😉
When you start viewing your problems as opportunities instead of obstacles, you develop a positive and constructive attitude toward life situations in general. All of this solution-training will make you smarter and stronger in the long run.
Be grateful for your ‘problems’; they’re your best and most fruitful teachers in disguise.