Every solution has a problem.You can’t have one without the other. So why do we say that we hate problems? Why do we claim to want a hassle-free existence? When someone is emotionally sick, why do we say, “He’s got problems”?Deep down, where our wisdom lives, we know that problems are good for us. When my daughter’s teacher talks to me during open house and tells me that my daughter is going to be “working more problems” in math than she worked last year, I think that’s wonderful. Why do I think it’s wonderful when my daughter gets more problems to solve, if I think problems are a problem?
Because somehow we know that problems are good for our children. By solving problems, our kids will become more self-sufficient. They’ll trust their own minds more. They’ll see themselves as problem-solvers.Because we ourselves are so superstitious about our own problems, we tend to run from them rather than solve them. We have demonized problems to such a degree that they are like monsters that live under the bed. And by not solving them during the day, we tremble over them at night.
When people took their problems to the legendary insurance giant W.Clement Stone, he used to shout out, “You’ve got a problem? That’s great!” It’s a wonder he wasn’t shot by someone, given our culture’s deep superstition about problems.
But problems are not to be feared. Problems are not curses. Problems are simply tough games for the athletes of the mind and true athletes always long to get a game going.In The Road Less Traveled, one of M. Scott Peck’s central themes is that “problems call forth our wisdom and our courage.”
One of the best ways to approach a problem is in a spirit of play, the same way you approach a chess game or a challenge to play one-on-one playground basketball. One of my favorite ways to play with a problem, especially one that seems hopeless, is to ask myself, “what is a funny way to solve this problem? What would be a hilarious solution?” That question never fails to open up fresh new avenues of thought.“Every problem in your life,” said Richard Bach, author of Illusions,“carries a gift inside it.” He is right. But we have to be thinking that way first, or the gift will never appear.
In his groundbreaking studies of natural healing, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that we even regard illness as a gift. “Because illness can be such a powerful stimulus to change,” he writes in Spontaneous Healing,"perhaps it is the only thing that can force some people to resolve their deepest conflicts. Successful patients often come to regard it as the greatest opportunity they ever had for personal growth and development—truly a gift. Seeing illness as a misfortune, especially one that is undeserved, may obstruct the healing system. Coming to see the illness as a gift that allows you to grow may unlock it."If you see your problems as curses, the motivation you’re looking for in life will be hard to find. If you learn to love the opportunities your problems present, then your motivational energy will rise.