“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell
Do you like surprises?
If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, I like surprises.” But the truth is, you don’t! Let’s be clear about it – you only like the surprises you want. The surprises you don’t want, you call problems!
But why do we dislike problems so much? Why do we work so hard to avoid problems? Seems to me that problems, in general, have gotten a bad rap.
Let me give you 3 reasons why you should learn to embrace problems when they arise, and provide you with some valuable guidance that just might shift your perspective when it comes to how you face and resolve problems in the future.
1. Problems Are Gifts: Problems are gifts; they stretch us and help us to grow. I can’t tell you how many times I have clients who tell me something to the effect of, “There seem to be so many problems. I wish for once I could just have smooth sailing.” But what does smooth sailing look like, say, on an EKG machine? Yup, flatline.
Listen, we are hearty creatures. We weren’t made to simply live a life of comfort and ease. In fact, if your life were to be like that (as nice as it may sound) you would be bored to tears! There would be little or no growth in your life, because there would be no catalyst to require it.
We need to be stretched, challenged, and to build our problem-solving muscles. Every time we solve a new problem, we grow. Growth equals progress. And progress equals happiness. A life without problems would quickly become a life with little or no growth, and that would lead to long-term unhappiness and discontent.
“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” – Henry Ford
2. Your Problem Has No Meaning, Yet The real problem is that you haven’t found and embraced an empowering meaning for your problems. Just like everything that happens in your life, you provide the fuel for the experience by assigning the meaning to the event. So, when you face a problem, the meaning you give to the event becomes your experience. If you say it’s humiliating, then that will be your experience. It’s frustrating… you get to experience frustration.
The questions you ask yourself about your problems are critical to how you embrace and experience anything that happens to you. Is this the beginning, or the end? Is this being done to me, or for me? Is this a blessing or a curse? You need to become a master of meaning. That, more than the problem itself, will determine your ability to stand up to the challenge, and ultimately to be happy.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” – Captain Jack Sparrow
3. Problems Shape Our Character: Problems help to shape us and develop our emotional muscles and character. The best way to build muscles is to push against resistance. And our problems are the resistance we need to push against to sculpt and shape our character. Without problems, we have no life. And when we solve our current problems, we can be sure there will be more to follow. We can’t get rid of all of our problems, but we can get better quality problems!
The bottom line is this – problems are opportunities in disguise. We need them to grow, to make things happen, to build character, and to make progress. We actually increase our optimism by facing and overcoming our problems. And each time that we do face those challenges and come out the other side, we also grow in confidence, leadership, and happiness.
“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear and superstition.” – Bernard Beckett
Next time you have a "problem", embrace it! It might just be the best thing that ever happened to you. Do you have a problem you thought you couldn’t overcome, but did? How did that impact your life? Share your story with me in the comments.
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work