Gandhi on focusing on solutions instead of problems (learn how to do this)

In the heat of the moment it often happens that we focus on the problem instead of using our energy to find a suitable solution.

Of course, it is important to analyze the problem sufficiently to understand it and to be able to find a solution in the first place, but unfortunately it happens easily to continue to fixate on the fact that there is a problem instead of moving on to work out a solution.

Gandi had drawn attention to this common grievance:

"Direct your focus on the solution and not on the problem."

- Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe you know this from yourself too (I definitely know it from myself). Let's take the following scenario:

Something has happened. For example, you lost your job - and your financial security is no longer there. That doesn't feel very good, does it? Immediately, thoughts start to circle: What about the rent, the food, the kids. What if the car breaks down unexpectedly or (depending on the country) you have to pay for medical treatment yourself?

You can continue the list of facets of the problem almost endlessly.

But that doesn't do you any good beyond a certain level. And that's exactly why you shouldn't.

It makes no sense to give the problem more space than possible. Try to avoid facing the circumstance with fear, frustration or so self-pity. And also you should not start playing out any what-if's in which you bring even more far-reaching, worse consequences into play (I call such behavior "thinking something through").

You should definitely start finding solutions instead.

So far so good, but maybe a practical guide would be quite nice.

Coming right up:

There are several methods for this. But the most pragmatic one I found was in Dale Carnegie's famous book "Worry Not Live" (which I highly recommend - if you don't have Audible yet, you can download it for free).

So here are the steps:

  1. Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?"
  2. Be ready to accept this if necessary
  3. Set out to change it to the best of your ability

Let's go into more detail about the individual steps:

Step 1: Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?"

Analyze, without fear, openly and honestly, what is the worst that can happen. Depending on how much you are conditioned to worry, this step can already be somewhat demanding.
The best thing to do is to write down the worst-case scenario and mentally put someone else in the situation.
This not only gives you emotional distance, but also helps you organize your thoughts.

Step 2: Be ready to accept this if necessary

No matter what that may happen. Be ready to accept any possibility. Freely follow the motto "It comes as it comes". When it happens it's annoying enough, but if you drive yourself crazy on top of it, it will only get worse. Don't let it happen.
By the way, when reflecting in the previous step, you will often have noticed that it could be worse.

Step 3: Do your best to change it

Once you have analyzed the situation and thus identified the problem and mentally prepared for the worst-case scenario to occur, you can focus on preventing it from occurring or mitigating it as best you can.
You will be able to do this only if you have managed to look at the problem rationally. Otherwise, you will probably overlook significant possibilities.

To make the whole thing a little more comprehensible, here is the example which Dale Carnegie gives in his book:

Carnegie heard the method from Willis H. Carrier, the brilliant engineer who would later launch the air conditioning industry.

When he was a young man, Carrier worked for the Buffalo Forge Company in Buffalo, New York. He was given the job of installing a gas purification system at a plant owned by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, a plant that cost millions of dollars. The purpose of this plant was to remove impurities from the gas so it could be burned without damaging the engines. It had only been tried once before - and under different conditions. While working in Crystal City, Missouri, unforeseen difficulties arose. It worked reasonably well, but not well enough to meet the warranty given.

Carrier told he was stunned by his failure. It was almost as if someone had hit him over the head and his stomach and insides, began to twist and turn. For a while he was so worried I couldn't sleep.

Eventually, however, by his own admission, common sense reminded him that worry gets me nowhere and he considered what was the worst that could happen as a result of that failure (we remind and: Step 1). No one would put him in jail or shoot him. That was certain. However, there was also the possibility that he would lose his job; and there was also the possibility that his employers would have to dismantle the machines and lose the invested 20000$ completely.

Then he reconciled himself to accepting it if necessary. He said to himself that this failure could throw a wrench in his plans and possibly mean the loss of his job; but if that was the case, he could always look for another job. Conditions could have been much worse, and as for his employers, they would have known that they were experimenting with a new method of gas purification, and if this experience had cost them the full amount, they could have absorbed that. They could have passed the cost on to the research department because it was an experiment. So step two. And something very important happened, Carrier described: he immediately relaxed and felt a peace he hadn't experienced in days.

From then on, he calmly devoted his time and energy to trying to improve the worst, for which he had already prepared in his mind.

He now looked for ways to reduce the loss of money (Step 3). He made several tests and finally found that if another five thousand dollars were spent on additional equipment, the problem would be solved. So they did, and instead of losing twenty thousand dollars, the company made fifteen thousand dollars profit. Carrier goes on to talk about how crazy it seemed to him in the aftermath that he had almost completely overlooked these opportunities just because he had focused too much on the problem and not the solution at the beginning.

As you can see, this approach is incredibly practical and therefore something I wanted to recommend to you.

Grab a piece of paper (or your note-taking app), put another person in your shoes, and write down the problem. Think about what the worst consequence could be, accept that possible outcome of the situation, and then start planning what you can do to avert or limit the damage.

Pin briefly and never forget. 🙂

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