Problems or solutions

Have you ever thought about how you, or others, look at life?

Is your life filled with problems you have, or solutions you can find?

During a recent meeting, I was listening to someone describe some challenges they were having in their work. They were terribly upset, stressed, and frankly suffering from how they were describing the situation. I listened intently as they described all the problems they were facing.  Nothing was working well, no one knew what they were doing, others were unwilling to learn despite attempts to teach them and so forth. I let them vent their frustration and at the end of the conversation I kept waiting… waiting… waiting for a solution they may share about the problems.

However, a solution never came. Instead, they continued to wallow and increase their stress and anxiety, leading them to say especially because of all these problems, this was another reason they were unable to take a very well needed vacation.

In the same conversation, someone else after hearing these problems stated, “I want to empower you and help you find solutions, what can we do to make this better?” However, it was not met with curiosity or introspection, but with dismissal: “Nothing can be done, this is how things are.”

The contrast was so obvious and palpable that after the energy depleting meeting concluded, I asked the person who was trying to empower the other, “How do you stay so positive?”  To this they stated, “Listen, I just believe that I can find a solution to any problem.”

That key distinction is what separates a positive versus a negative mindset. Do you find solutions to challenges you face? Or is everything a problem without a solution that just ends up depleting you, and others around you of vital energy? The way you think regarding anything in your life determines what kind of person you will become and who will surround you. Are you a negative person, or a positive one?

Have you ever seen someone, ask for something and all they do during the conversation is state all the negative things, the problems or ideas that are working? Or have you seen someone find a challenge (problem), but when asking for something they incorporate possible solutions in the conversation? Which person have you been more willing to help? The person that complains, whines about all the problems, or the ones that come with positivity after identifying the problem and tries to come up with solutions.

If you are a parent, you may have experienced this before. When your kids come whining, crying, and complaining why they cannot have more candy or dessert and how it is so unfair, do you feel more inclined to give them more? Or if they come with a sweet face, give you kisses and say, “Pretty please?” as they masterfully turn their head slightly to ask this. Who ends up with a bit more dessert? Your kid that complained and cried, or the one that came with positivity and love. Sure, they did not have a solution other than to give them more candy, but they are just perfecting their skills at 3 years old.

However, when you show up in life, whether it is at the airport counter, a work meeting or during any negotiation, you are likely to be more effective if you have a positive and solution-based mindset than a negative problem based one. Venting your negativity without solutions will have others tell you “You are right.” But as an expert hostage negotiator and author Chris Voss says, what you want is a “That’s right.” That is more likely to be said if you come with solutions rather than with problems.    

If you approach anything in life as a challenge that needs a solution, not as a problem that burdens you and is literally emotionally and physically killing you, then you will feel empowered and ready to tackle all the challenges that lay ahead in life. Life is full of them; life is not easy. It is only easy when you are not ready to challenge yourself and grow and feel the discomfort that comes with growth. To achieve what you never thought possible, you will need to leave the comfort of your “easy” life.

To understand this, you will need awareness of your thoughts, awareness of your words, texts, emails. You will need a conscious mindset to want to find a solution in everything you do. Sure, you will get upset, frustrated, annoyed. But moving through those emotions and then think about the possibilities for improvement in a challenge you are facing, will remodel your neural pathways so that daily you can move towards a positive and solution-based mindset.

Find solutions.

Find growth.

It will transform you.