Life is about problems and solutions. Don’t overcomplicate it.

Life gives us problems to solve. Sometimes our problem to be solved is, we don’t like the way we feel, and we have to figure out a way to either cope with not liking the way we feel, or figuring out a way to change it.

Sometimes the problem life gives us to solve is, we don’t like what’s happening in our relationships. Thus we need to figure out a way to live with what we don’t like in our relationships; or we need to figure out a way to change our relationships. (Often, relationship problems are a little more complicated to solve, because by definition they involve the thoughts, feelings, and actions of someone in addition to ourselves).

You get the idea. All of our activities in life can be productively framed as a series of problems, that are begging for solutions. It’s our job to generate solutions; or evaluate solutions others have generated for us; and then act upon those solutions. (Of note: even the choice to not act upon any potential solution, represents a solution: you’ve chosen, by your inactivity, to solve the problem by pretending it doesn’t exist. Good luck with that.)

The big problem in life isn’t that we have problems. The big problem in life occurs when we choose “solutions” to our problems, big and little, that either a) don’t really solve the problem, and/or b) create more and bigger problems than the original problem.

For example, sometimes, when people are faced with the problem of not liking how they’re feeling at a particular moment, they choose to try to change the way they feel by, say, shopping. Or, maybe, eating. Or, maybe, using substances. All of which, in the short term, probably will solve the problem of “I don’t like how I feel right now.”

However, it’s often the case that those “solutions” don’t actually solve the problems lurking beneath the surface of the problem “I don’t like how I feel right now.” That is, it’s pretty rare when not liking how we’re feeling is an issue of not having enough stuff; or not having had enough to eat; or not having put substances into our body recently enough. (Of course, there is a subset of times when those actually ARE the root problems behind not liking how we’re feeling; and, if that’s the case, we should absolutely solve those problems by shopping, eating, or ingesting substances.)

In addition to not really solving our manifest problems, those “solutions” often create bigger, less manageable problems, especially if we engage in them repeatedly, despite the fact that they only solve our “I don’t like how I feel” problem in the very short term. We can go broke; we can gain weight and develop diabetes; we can develop addictions. All of which are more problematic than not liking the way we’re feeling in a particular moment.

This may all seem self-evident, of course. But if you think so, ask yourself: when I’m faced with a problem, do I take care to choose solutions that 1) actually address the problem, and 2) don’t create bigger, less manageable problems in the end?

Taking just a few minutes and framing our life goals as problems that are begging for solutions– true solutions– can revolutionize the way we approach our problems. And asking some very common sense questions about the potential “solutions” available to us can help us avoid a ridiculous amount of pain and tumult down the road.

Problems are meant to be solved. It’s your job to make sure you really try to solve them, instead of taking the quick and easy path of momentary, half-assed pseudo-solutions.

 

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