Everyone is trying to solve problems.
This is how we define business:
What’s the problem you’re solving?
This is how we define creative work:
What problems are you working on?
The effect of this is that in every waking moment we are walking around, either trying to solve problems or looking for problems to solve.
Through this lens, everything is a problem. Or a potential problem.
Problems become opportunities: when we solve them, we can turn them into a business.
This is how much entrepreneurship starts today. Find a problem you have. Solve it. Share your solution with others who have the same problem and are eager to solve it. Charge them for it. Make money.
The problem may be a disease, a workflow issue, how to move, how to manage your time better, how to work more effectively, how to manage your ADHD or a chronic illness. It may be how to organize your clutter or your notes, how to improve your memory, how to heal your trauma. How to change your habits. How to control your kids.
The problem may be politics. Guns. Abortion. Voting rights. Policing issues.
So. Many. Problems.
If you can’t solve the problem, then maybe you’re the problem.
And if you’re the problem, that leads to feeling defeated and demoralized.
What Problems Give Us
I like solving problems. It makes me feel useful. Purposeful. It gives my life meaning.
I suspect most people who solve problems feel that way.
Our culture is built on the premise of solving problems.
But what if there’s no problem to solve? What if everything we view as a problem is not in fact a problem?
I realize that’s a bold statement — we are so acculturated and conditioned to view things through the lens of problems that it’s hard to imagine otherwise.
Play along, would you, for a moment.
What if the “problems” weren’t problems?
What if everything was happening as planned. Not by us, not by our egos, but by a force greater than any of us.
What if none of the things you call problems were actually problems to solve?
What would you do then?
I was listening to a talk from meditation teacher Tara Brach, about the urge to solve problems as part of the pattern of trying to control things.
We all have this controller within us.
I notice mine coming up in so many areas: my work, my physical body, the way I get invested in my progress in my business or in my physical movement or activities.
“No progress” becomes a problem to be solved. Which unleashes my controller. I become obsessed with the problem and what I need to do to solve it.
In this role as controller, I am in resistance to life as it is.
In this role as controller, I am I suffering.
And it’s an illusion. Because what I think is a “problem” — the lack of progress — may not even be real. Maybe I am making progress, but I just can’t see it from where I stand.
Looking at everything in life as a problem to be solved has a huge energetic cost.
It also forces us to source our purpose in external factors.
If I feel useful when I’m solving problems, if I draw meaning from helping others solve problems, if solving problems is how I establish my value in this world, then what happens to my purpose and sense of meaning when there’s no problem to solve?
If there are no problems to solve, then where do I source my value?
Establishing Value Without Problems
If there are no problems to solve, then I’m forced to find my purpose in being.
If there are no problems to solve, if there is nothing that needs to be fixed, then I’m forced to add value in a different way.
Perhaps I find meaning and establish value in holding space for others to share their truths and feel fully expressed.
Perhaps I can be more present to life as it is, instead of trying to control it and manipulate it to be how I wish it would be.
If I can find my value from a source other than solving problems, I don’t need to go looking for problems to solve, or manufacture problems to solve. That would certainly free up a lot of time and energy.
The Experiment: Give Up One Problem
It’s not easy to make this shift. Teachers like Tara Brach acknowledge that they still work on this.
Brach invites us to choose one place where we notice our controller consistently pop up, and set an intention to release the controller from that one area.
Give up ONE problem to a greater source; God, divine mother, nature, Buddha, Jesus, your higher self — whatever you believe in.
It’s an interesting experiment to run.
What is one thing in your life that you consistently view as a problem to solve, or a place that you try to control, that you would be willing to give up for a week?
Maybe it’s your kids, or your business, or your body. Or your clients or how people perceive you.
What would it feel like to give up looking for problems to solve?
How might this change your outlook?
What else might change if you don’t view life through the lens of problems?
What would change in how you create? How might your business change? How might it change your relationships?
Pick one problem in your life and let it go for a day or a week. Keep a journal and report back.
What changes do you notice in this area of your life when you give up this problem?
What frees up in your time and energy when you let go of searching for or manufacturing problems to solve?
Share it in the comments or tag me on Twitter @reneefishman.