Unfortunately, the way we deal with problems is often far from ideal. And the reason for this is very simple: A problem is something unpleasant and we usually deal with it only very superficially - as little as possible.
However, this behavior is by far nothing new and man has apparently always behaved this way. At least this topic was already discussed hundreds of years ago. The Buddhist scholar Shantideva (from whom the following quote actually comes - it is often wrongly attributed to Gautama Buddha) questioned that people tend to behave irrationally when it comes to worrying about problems.
This may sound strange, but if you reflect for a moment, you'll probably notice that you often worry about problems just out of habit. And not because it would make sense.
However, as soon as one manages to look at the situation rationally, it becomes clear that there are actually only the two categories mentioned in the quote:
- Either we can solve a problem
- Or it is unsolvable
In both cases, worry does not help the situation. Either you don't need to worry because the problem is solvable or you don't need to worry because it can't be solved anyway.
In the first case, you should not spend your energy on worrying, but on solving the problem (first category) or limiting the damage of the problem (second category).
Let's look further at both cases:
You have a problem that you can solve
Once you have determined that your problem is solvable, the next step should not be to continue worrying. This is because worrying is typically not solution-oriented. It may happen that the consequences you worry about allow you to open up new perspectives, but that is rather the exception. And even then, you must be careful to continue worrying from that very realization.
Once, you know that a problem is solvable, you should:
- Begin to plan the steps for the solution
- Start working through the steps for the solution
This sounds very simple in theory, but in practice it is not so simple at the beginning and it is quite possible that you - depending on how strongly you are conditioned to worry - fall into worry again and again when planning or working through the steps ("But what if I don't succeed in this step?"). And then the whole plan doesn't succeed?").
In such moments, you should come up with mechanisms to refocus yourself. One possible approach is to:
- Write down worries for the failure of the step (this helps put the thought to rest because your brain doesn't have to remember the worry).
- Continue to follow the original plan and let your inner voice know that you will take care of this eventuality with the same methodology if the concern comes true.
This approach is successful because the majority of worries will NOT come true, and so you will become more accustomed to success over time.
You have a problem that you cannot solve
But what if you identify a problem that you can't solve? Then you should also come up with mechanisms to deal with the situation.
Since worries usually take up much more space in your head here, it is elementary to bring order to your thoughts.
The best method I discovered (it was in Dale Carnegie's book "Don't Worry - Live!")
- What is the problem?
- What is the worst that could happen?
- What can I do to improve the result in my favor?
Like the quote from Shantideva, Niebuhr's prayer also deals with this very subject:
"God, give me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.Niebuhr's prayer
What is the problem?
Understanding the problem precisely is very crucial to being able to tackle the next two steps - and especially: to be able to tackle them well. A simple trick is to mentally put another person in your role, so that you can look at the situation a little more rationally.
What is the worst that could happen?
When you've thought about what the worst-case scenario is, something funny often happens:
You realize that the worst fears are often not so bad. For example, you will lose your job in the worst case? Then you can look for a new one (and if you have to change the industry).
What can I do to improve the result in my favor?
If there is a way to limit the damage, you should definitely try that if it is a problem that you cannot solve.
In Dale Carnegie's "Don't Worry - Live!" a gentleman tells about an industrial ventilation system which was installed at a customer's site, but which unfortunately did not work as planned. After worrying for a while, he managed to look at the situation rationally and, using the aforementioned scheme, achieved the following:
Instead of taking a loss to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, he managed to determine what was causing it and with another investment (about 25% additional cost) was able to fix the problem. The cost was written internally to the research department and the job was completed. The profit was reduced by the additional costs, but the customer was satisfied and new know-how was gained.
If you compare this with what almost happened in the beginning (loss of investment, penalty for non-fulfillment of the contract and damage to reputation), the result is overwhelming.
So you see: There is usually no reason to worry about problems. Either because the problem will not last, or because there is nothing we can do about the problem. With the above tips you will surely succeed in tackling problems better. Maybe not at first in all cases, but more and more often.
Who and how Buddha really was you can learn here