December 16, 2015
When it comes to how our lives are going, we typically find what we are looking for.
That is, when we believe that we are thriving, we generally find reasons and evidence to support that. When we believe we are struggling, we find proof of that belief, too.
The reality is usually somewhere in between—we meet success and challenges in turns. That is natural. But when we concentrate only on what is difficult, it can seem like we only struggle—and our success get washed-out.
When that happens, we get stuck feeling in a rut. And the more we feel in a rut, the more we believe that we are in a rut. And, so, this “reality” overtakes us.
Feelings, however, are not facts.
So, it matters where we direct our attention. True, we must acknowledge life’s challenges, but to what extent?
The real magic happens when we shift our focus from the problem to the solution. It takes practice, but it’s worth it every time.
When we become solution-minded we open ourselves to teachers and teachings that we never before would have noticed.
Consider the famous case of the delivery truck that was too tall and got stuck under a low bridge. The municipal authorities called in all the experts to figure out what to do. Architects and engineers figured that the bridge would need to be dismantled brick-by-brick to get the truck out. It would be costly and time-intensive, but it was the only way to get the truck out without causing further damage to the bridge.
Or…so they thought. In the commotion, a young boy and girl were trying to get the attention of the authorities, none of whom were interested in the ideas of children. Finally, a worried and puzzled engineer stooped to patronize the children and hear about their “solution”. He was shocked and delighted to hear them say, “Just let the air out of the tires and drive the truck forward.”
The solutions to our problems are usually easier than we can believe. But if we are caught up in the problem, it might be impossible to see that.
In a lot of cases, it really does depend on where we direct our focus. By dwelling in the problem, it grows. This is because the longer we spend looking at something, the more details we notice. It’s like looking at a painting, which at first is just a simple landscape—but the longer we gaze upon it the more we notice: brush strokes, imperfections, careful nuances, new colors and shapes, and wear-and-tear on the canvas.
Our problems and our solutions can be just like that. The more we focus on what’s wrong, the more wrong we find. The more we focus on what the solution is, the more solutions we find.
The surest way out of a rut starts with our thinking and continues with how we talk about our lives.
If we are constantly saying that life is difficult, we will surely find evidence to support that belief. If, instead, we acknowledge life’s challenges, but choose to use other language, we are likely to begin noticing different things.
Focusing on solutions might sound something like this, “I have options. I am capable of change for the better. Everyday I grow. I add value to the world.”
Once we practice this enough, it becomes the new reality. We begin looking for evidence of this truth as opposed to the old one. It becomes our focus and we find ourselves dwelling in solutions, as opposed to problems.
Do I focus more on solutions than problems?
How do my feelings about my challenges affect my capacity to take action? (i.e. Am I so overwhelmed by them that I don’t know what to do first, so I do nothing?)
What would my life look like today, in this moment, right now, if someone waved a magic wand and removed all of my challenges?
(The answers to these questions are likely the real reasons why we want our problems gone. It is probably a feeling that we are reaching for more than anything material—belonging, love, acceptance, comfort, peace, excitement. We want to feel free or loved or relaxed or happy.)
Have you truly named your rut?
Objective: Start a daily writing practice, which focuses on solutions. Start small, but be consistent.
Time: Five mins/day
Action: Get specific and concrete about what is bugging you.
Get a fresh notebook and write for 5 mins a day in it. Do it for ten days in a row.
- Right now I feel…
- One challenge I am facing in life is…
- I want to change this in order to feel…
- One action that I can take today would be…
Take your answers above and plug them into the following equation.
I want to feel more __3.__ and a challenge I am facing in feeling that way is __2.__ . A solution that I could start today would be __4.__.
This exercise does a few things. One, it names the challenge (so it can no longer have the power of mystery over you.) Two, it identifies a reason for the shift, which is to feel a certain way. And, three, is it breaks the challenge down into a specific action. Let’s face it, challenges can be overwhelming when we try to tackle them all at once. This process encourages a one-step-at-a-time attitude.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.