“Leaders are problem solvers by talent and temperament, and by choice.” -Harlan Cleveland
There are weeks when life is steeped in only problems that seem to get more complex and embedded the longer I look at them. In every direction I look, all I can see is what isn’t working. From mysterious health concerns in the family to new product launches that are mysteriously leaking, I wade through the days, trying not to slip into the old familiar slippery slope of doubt and despair. My single aspiration is to remain open and curious and lean towards gratefulness. It takes vigilance, especially when listening to the news where problems are magnified by the millions who suffer and my own ability to respond already feels so taxed.
I am committed to positive thinking, but I am also exhausted and I know that fatigue is not a friend to my positivity efforts. Tiredness weighs down my thoughts and I forget how to wonder. I get easily vexed and miss the jokes everyone else is laughing at. Fatigue can make us miss the solutions that are often right in front of us. The key to successful problem solving is approaching it the way you would a good mystery novel. Looking for clues, staying patient and present, and honing the capacity to keep coming back to the situation with fresh eyes. Einstein recognized his own mastery in problem solving this way: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Tapping into the well of creativity, mine and others, is how I overcome the fatigue of dealing with too many problems. The truth is that for every problem, there aredozens, maybe hundreds, of people working at inspired solutions. Even for problems as big as our global economic crises, there are viable solutions being generated all the time. One group, inspired by the Occupy movement created a powerful short video describing the obvious, yet seemingly over-looked solution of reinstating a 1% tax on financial transactions that would create enough revenue to solve all of our economic problems. What a remarkably simple and easy solution. Tell your congressman about it.
Our problems are the challenging opportunities for growth and evolution. I feel revitalized when I see solutions emerge. It makes me remember that life is in fact workable if we start with a workable mind. I know that Voltaire was right when he said: “No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.” It’s just about staying with the thinking until you get it right.