Our lives are filled with various experiences, and not all of them are good. Every person knows the meaning of the word Problem. Usually we do not have a good association with this word. Difficult situations are never pleasant, and a lot of times it means destruction for us. We all naturally try to avoid problems and also naturally we react negatively when we face them.
I want to invite you to see another side of the problem. When we look at the bigger picture – difficulties are just the same part of life as everything else that we consider good. We are not going to avoid them as much as we would like to. Struggles can play two roles in our lives, and I believe we have a big influence on which role they will be playing. Problems may lead us to the anxiety, fear and even despair, and they also can make us stronger, strengthen our faith, teach us to not give up, but aim for the goal. Challenges can either break us or make us stronger, and it depends only on us what kind of end result we are going to have. How we are going to cope with them depends on our faith, attitude and our actions. I have learned to see a lot of good in problems. In fact, difficulties were to my benefit.
After getting into a car accident and losing both of my legs and having my left arm paralyzed, I had to go through an enormous physical and emotional pain and face a lot of challenging obstacles while living in my home country, Lithuania. Upon my arrival to the United States, some of the issues resolved right away, because here there is a different access for the wheelchair users and different climate. However, there were other issues that needed to be solved. My attitude really supported me, because it helped me to overcome every obstacle I had encountered with, and it developed a new perspective about the problems. I started seeing them as the same part of life just as joy and success, and I accept them naturally as all other life circumstances. Problems and difficulties are just simply situations that we have to deal with. They are going to come into our lives over and over again, and what outcome we will have depends on how we look at those situations and what we are going to do about them. If we see our situation as a big problem and will focus on how bad it is and how difficult it is to improve it – we will immediately have negative feelings. The more we think about its complexity,- negative feelings will increase. Soon enough we will get anxious, worried, and fearful and eventually we may even get panic. It is very difficult to make a wise decision being in such inner state, would you agree? Have you ever noticed that the more you focus on the problem and its complexity, the more difficult it seems to you? The more complicated it seems, the worse you feel, and eventually you don’t even know what to do about it. When you choose to focus only on your problem itself, it is difficult to see the solution. You feel stuck and it doesn’t even make sense to make any efforts to improve the situation, because you simply don’t see that it can be improved. Finally, there is a temptation to just give up on it and let it be.
Let’s see if a different perspective about difficult circumstances can make a difference. How about if you look at it not as a Problem, but as a Challenge that has a solution? What is the solution? That is going to be your challenge – to find it and implement it. Do you know a game The Rubik’s Cube? I remember those times, when in my childhood my brother and I would turn that magic cube trying to put all those colors together. It was difficult and often times we couldn’t win. But we still kept playing it. We clearly understood that the point of this puzzle game was to find a way how to put all those various colors in a way that each side of the cube was the solid color. We knew that there must be a way and we looked for it. There were days, when we’d lose our patience and pass it on to Mom or Dad, so they could try it. But on the next day, we’d take it back and again tried to solve that puzzle. Why would we take it again and again despite of how difficult it was to find that mysterious solution? It’s because we knew that there was a way to arrange that puzzle cube in solid colors, we were challenged to find a way, and we were determined to find it. If you did not have a chance to play this puzzle game, pick another challenging game that you played. Remember how you looked at it and what was your mindset, why would you go back to that game over and over again, and played it until you had the victory. Because you knew there must be a way, right?
What if you looked at the difficult circumstances the same way? Try to look at them in the same way as you looked at the game that challenged you. Remember yourself when you were a kid, how you, sincerely believing that there must be a way, kept trying to find a solution for that puzzle game. And you found it, right? Your current situation also has a way out. What is that way? I don’t know. But you can find it, if you look for it with such determination and enthusiasm as you had while playing that game. Your life difficulties are your Rubik’s Cube. It is given to you to find its solution. Problems are there for you to learn and make you stronger, not to break you down.
When facing a difficult situation, it is important to control our perspective about it. The situation is solely a plain fact. What kind of feelings we are going to have and what we are going to do about it, greatly depends on our perspective about that fact. It is important how we interpret it and what kind of question we ask ourselves.
Problem: If we look at the occurred situation, focusing on how unexpected and complicated it is or how bad it can get – we will see it as a Problem and we will feel stuck. If we focus on the problem itself, usually the questions in our mind will be out of our emotions and the ones that do not have an answer or will be dis-empowering. For example “Why is this happening to me?!”, “How could he/she do this to me?” “Why can’t I get out of the problems?!”
We see the situation as a Problem because we focus on how difficult or hopeless it is. We will handle the same situation in a much different way, if we focus on the solution and ask ourselves different questions.
Challenge: I learned this from my experience, and I will use it here in order to be able illustrate my thought. The fact that I completely lost the use of my left arm by having it paralyzed, was very painful. It seemed nearly impossible to take care of myself with one arm and having no legs. The first few months after the accident I would constantly ask myself “What about the shower? How am I going to put on clothes now? How am I supposed to fix my hair with one hand..? How in the world am I going to fix meals with one hand?!” The first several months my Mom used to help with all these needs, but I knew I must find a way to take care of it all on my own because I couldn’t keep asking for assistance for the rest of my life. I must continue my life in spite of my limitations and I had to find a way to take care of myself independently. This way, I did not keep telling myself that I could not do anything by myself because I didn’t have my legs and my arm, but I was looking for ways how I could take care of things being in such physical condition.
Now, after many years, I see one very important detail that helped me to find ways to take care of myself and fully re-build my life. When I needed to do something with one hand, in my mind I did not ask myself “CAN I do this?” If I did, the answer automatically would have been NO, because nobody cooks or puts on clothes with one hand. And generally, it looks nearly impossible to do things using only one hand, which actually requires two. Instead, I asked myself “HOW can I do this?”, and thus automatically my thoughts were focused on figuring out the solution. My left hand is still paralyzed and I do not have my legs, but today I live on my own across the globe from my family, and independently take care of my needs, take care of the household matters, laundry, cleaning, shopping, cooking, work, travel, etc. because of this simple reason – facing a challenging situation I ask myself “HOW?” instead of “CAN I?” Thus, I developed such character trait, that as soon as I face some difficult situation, I automatically ask myself a question “How can I solve this situation to get the best outcome?” or “There must be a way. What is the way?
The ways to improve or cope with the situation are always there, we just need to find them. The same situation – which is a solely fact – can be taken two ways, and our end result will depend on whether we look at it is a Problem, focusing on its difficulty or we look at it as a challenge to ourselves, focusing on possible solutions.
Facing difficult situation, instead of looking at it as a Problem and focusing on how bad it is, remember a puzzle game that you were challenged by. You kept looking for the solution, because you knew there was one. Your situation does have a solution same way as that puzzle game, you only need to look for it, and keep looking for it until you find it. You will find a way by asking yourself questions that will direct your focus on the solution. There is a big difference between questions “Can I, is it possible?” and “How can I, what is the way?” and each of them will deliver totally different results for the exact same situation. “Can I?” is usually automatic reaction to the difficult situation. The danger of it is that if the situation is going to be really difficult, the answer will be immediately No. I started my learning journey in the Rehab center, when I needed to get out of bed and dress up independently, or having ingredients for the sandwich (which was needed to cut, etc.), tried to figure out how I could make a meal for myself with one hand. If I had looked at it as a Problem, focusing on my limitations and asked myself “Can I do it?”, the answer automatically would have been NO, because nobody slices the bread and other ingredients and makes the sandwich with one hand. But I looked at it as a challenge to find a way how I could do it, and it made a big difference not only in that situation, but in my entire life.
As a coach, when I see a client seeing the situation as a Problem, I tell him about the example of the puzzle game, to help him see his situation as a challenge. And then, I apply some of the questions, to help him change the perspective and find the solution.
It is always more powerful if you hear the powerful and not expected questions from somebody else. But if you don’t have a coach, who would help you with that, you can do it yourself. When you face a situation that is difficult, instead of calling it a “problem”, focusing on its difficulty, think of it as your challenge that you need to resolve. Only by asking yourself questions that will direct your mind to seek for the solution you will find the solution. Ask yourself questions that will make you look at the situation from another perspective. Some of the examples are:
- If this situation is a Win/Win – what’s in it for me?
- What can I appreciate about this situation?
- What can I learn from this?
- Having the situation the way it is, what would change it to a better?
- Where is the solution to this?
- If I see this situation as a challenge to myself… Maybe there is something for me to learn, improve some character traits or something else… What would that be?
- What would be ideal outcome from this situation?
- What needs to happen to have my desired outcome?
- What possible options can I see that would make my situation better/improved/resolved?
- If I decide have fun with this, what could I laugh about this situation?
Start appreciate difficult situations. They are there for a reason, and it depends only on you if you end it strong or the situation will overpower you. Problems either will break you or make you stronger. Which end result you like better?
Show those problems that YOU are stronger! 🙂
Be strong. Be determined and persistent. Be unstoppable.