Problems or Solutions

There’s a man in my neighborhood I run into a couple of times a week. Over the last year and a half we’ve struck up a friendship despite probably a thirty-year age gap between us. He’s the type of person that you want to stop and hear from no matter what you’re in the middle of or where you’re running off to. He seems genuinely content in life and the space he occupies in it.
 
We never seem to have more than a few minutes to chat with one another but whatever time we have always seems to be just enough. During our most recent conversation we spoke for maybe three minutes tops. But in that time, without lecturing or soapboxing, speaking only to where he is in his life, he shared how essential it is that he stays focused on solutions, not problems. And then he was gone, off to the next part of his day, like an older male Fairy Godmother tasked with saving people from themselves and turning pumpkins into carriages.
 
As I thought about our conversation later I remembered a video I saw about a year ago. It’s intended to be one of those sort of self-help, motivational-esque vignettes designed to drive home a point. A couple gets stranded on an escalator and instead of just walking up or down the stairs, they remain stuck where they are. They panic, they yell for help, they give up, then they sit and wait. It’s truly such a terribly cheesy video (you can watch it here) but it has stuck with me because it so clearly reinforces the point my friend was making: we can focus on the problem (which, nine times out of ten, is the equivalent of doing absolutely nothing), or we can focus on a solution. I can turn this broken escalator into a staircase and continue on, or I can keep wailing that the escalator is broken.
 
For me, I know what the problems are: fear of losing what I have, fear of not getting what I want, and what those two things mean to my ego, pride, and sense of security (control and self-worth). Everything
big, small, professional, financial, emotional, romantic, everythingcan be traced back to some variation of those fears and insecurities. Focusing on the problems is wasted effort now (which is not to say that I don’t still give them time and energy more often than I'd like). So where I reap the biggest reward is not in wrestling my problems to the ground but rather in seeking solutions, putting them to work, and getting out of my own way.

I can choose to think about problems all day long. I can create them faster and better than anyone I know when left to my own devices. Or I can do something different. I can see problems as solutions-in-waiting, opportunities for me to change my way of thinking and to change my actions so that I get different outcomes. Because whether it’s problems or solutions, what we give our attention to is what will come forward.