When I was a kid I spent many a Saturday morning playing a computer game called “Civilization”. At the start of the game your settler can see a small green square of land. (The graphics are probably way better now!) You have just a few resources to build a fledgling settlement. Each turn of the game your population grows, your map of the world grows, and you make decisions about where to put new resources in terms of what to buy and build and explore. Have you played it? It’s pretty fun.
In my youth I loved the beginning stages of this game. You couldn’t really mess them up. Everything went well. The thing I liked most was that all the people in the civilization were happy. But as things grew, problems grew, and people in the cities started being unhappy. I hated this stage of the game. I didn’t want ANY unhappy people in my civilization.
So I would repeatedly get to a certain point in the game, quit, and then start a new game to go back to when everything was simpler and more peaceful.
My desire for peace and harmony is incredibly strong, and not just in computer games. As a kid I wanted a happy home, I wanted to write only happy stories, and I wanted everything to go smoothly all the time.
Can you relate?
To this day I’m deeply affected when there’s a rift in any of my relationships, and my brain goes into overdrive to mend things.
But, I’ve gotta tell you, over time, I’ve slowly dropped my childish fantasy of a utopian world with no problems.
Yes, I was temporarily aghast in a creative writing course when I was taught that to write an interesting story you have to write about problems… because a description of a happy scene is actually boring. But I could see the truth in this idea.
And, back in the day, as a new business owner I was incredibly weighed down when things didn’t work out just the way I wanted. (It happened hundreds, if not thousands of times.) But it was obvious that the only path forward was to keep going, through the problems. So I did.
At some point earlier this year I realized that my perspective on problems had totally flipped.
You see, I LOVE PROBLEMS! I think they are pure gold. Or at least the raw material from which to get at the gold.
Problems are interesting. They are challenging. They are engaging. They are new.
If you face a problem and solve it, you grow and learn. Problems make you better.
Like in my old computer game, things are definitely growing here at Cardy Career Coaching. I’m leading a team of six fantastic, amazing career coaches. We’ve had over 70 awesome applicants wanting to work with us in a little over two months. There are more clients and more people overall in our world, which means there are more problems. New problems. We’re highly organized, so not too many fires, but y’know, we’re humans working with other humans. Things come up.
I totally accept these problems. In fact, I welcome them. I’m looking forward to the next level of problems that comes from growing even bigger. There is a zero percent chance that any temporary “unhappiness” amongst my “civilization” is going to have me running for the hills, wanting to start over or to go back to when things were simpler.
My view on problems has clearly matured. Problems are going to be there. It’s just a fact of life. May as well embrace them.
At the end of most work days, I sit down and ask myself a series of questions.
Two of these questions are:
What gold (problems) has arrived for your benefit?
Why are you excited to address it?
I always have answers to these two questions. 🙂
My Worldview Gets Challenged
I don’t typically watch the news, but I saw a segment recently that dug deep into a Big Problem. It covered all sides of the problem. And it implied that it was a terrible thing that this problem existed.
As I watched, I bought into the idea that this Big Problem shouldn’t be here. As a result, I came away feeling worried, small, and disappointed in the state of things. I remember doing some dishes, and stewing.
Have you been there? I imagine so. Worrying and feeling hopeless about the fact that there are Big Problems seems to be taking up a lot of people’s head space recently.
Then a lightbulb went off for me.
These Big Problems are interesting, challenging, engaging, and new. They are here for our benefit. So that we can solve them and grow and learn.
A story with no problems is a boring story. A world with no problems is a boring world. It’s a place with no sense of accomplishment or pride. No growth.
I realized that much like I want problems in my business, I actually want these Big Problems in our world. They give us purpose. They give us something to do.
When I looked at the Big Problems this way, I felt hopeful.
I thought of our amazing clientele and all the interesting things that they decide to work on. I felt pleased that our work helps more people find the specific types of problems that they love solving the most (some big, some small, all good).
And I started looking forward to the breakthroughs that are going to come as we tackle these Big Problems together. Because these problems are bigger than any one of us. We have to put our heads together.
When we do, what we learn on the other side of these problems is going to be so cool!
If You’ve Been Worried About Big Problems…
Take a breath and take a note.
There are always going to be problems.
Stop worrying about the fact that there are problems. Stop getting pissed that problems exist. Stop thinking that problems are a problem. And instead, accept them. Look them in the eye.
And then let’s get to work.
We get to work at a small level, in our own lives, by facing and overcoming our personal problems.
And we get to work at a big level, as a people, by facing and overcoming our Big Problems together.
And then let’s do it all over again!
Because thank goodness there are always going to be problems.
Thank goodness there is work to do.
Thank goodness that we grow through this work.
Thank goodness for the incredible gold waiting inside of each and every problem.
And thank goodness for this beautiful, problematic adventure called life.
Have you been worrying about the presence of Big Problems? What helps you to cope with them? Share your thoughts and comments below!
Cori Sanders says
WONDERFUL!!!! Thank you so much for this positive reframe of problems, Alison! In answer to your questions, what helps me with the Big Problems are prayer and action. I think of a Big Problem like sex trafficking and modern day slavery, and I choose to pray for all the people, forces, and situations over which I have no control. Then I ask myself, what ONE thing can I do to address this problem? Volunteer to raise awareness? Contribute financially to support the work of organisations that help? Educate myself on the issues? Organise fundraisers? There’s always one or more actions I can take. And if we all take one small action consistently, well….water consistently dripping on a rock can erode it.
Alison C. says
Hi Cori, and thanks for the thoughtful response! I love how you’ve taken big issues and broken them down into small things that you can personally affect. You’re an inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing!