I hope the title of this article is self-explanatory enough, but still I will repeat the concept: if you are the kind of person who enjoys complaining, who sees the world negatively, who thinks most problems have no solution… this article is not for you 🙂
* If you think you have a problem, take a minute to decide if it’s a real problem, or a made-up situation happening in your mind #PerceptionIsReality
* If the problem is real, then don’t see it as a problem, but as an opportunity to grow and learn #BeALearningAnimal
* Then detach, try to view it objectively and assess the situation from an external point of view #StayCool
* Gather all the info you need to tackle this situation, figure out what you need to learn and learn it #FillTheGap
* Always think solution-oriented, making the worst case scenario a learning opportunity
* Ask for counsel, but in a constructive way #GetHelp
* Write things down, both in the process and as a collection of learnings at the end of the process #KnowWhy
* When you are stuck, doing something is better than doing nothing
NO MOANING PLEASE
The world, our lives, our work, our relationships… they are all full of problems and this is a great thing (later I’ll explain why). Most people tend to complain about problems, either within themselves or with their friends. You surely can think of people you know, and spend time with, who do that: maybe it’s a relationship issue, a work situation, the broken car, no money… for many people the dynamic is not “I have a problem therefore I complain about it”, but rather it is “I want to complain about something therefore I need problems to do it”. For them, everything is a problem, and every social interaction is a chance to moan and whine about how bad their situation is. I am no psychologist but, at least for the people I know, it tends to happen for either of the following two reasons:
1- Lack of self-esteem. These people have a low opinion of themselves and see moaning with their friends as a way to get their attention and compassion, which they crave to soothe their unsure ego;
2- Desire to be at the center of the attention. This is probably the most common, as sharing a problem is a great way to put yourself in the center of the conversation (typical case: I am talking about a problem I have and you tell me you have a worse one, which typically happens in group situation as the person senses the shift of attention to you when you are sharing your problem).
It may be a conscious behaviour, but in many cases it’s unconscious and people who do it don’t even realise they do.
As I write in my book, Office of Cards, for many people (and definitely for moaners), #PerceptionIsReality.
This means that no matter if the problem they think they have is a real one or not, for them it’s as real as a slap in the face, so they act consistently to the way they see their reality. Lack of objectivity and perspective traps them into viewing their problems as such, and if you mix that with lack of self-esteem and/or vanity you end up having a constant moaner.
So I am going to make two points here:
* If you know people who are like this, I suggest immediate action and either tell them, so they can address their behaviour and fix it, or you should really consider whether spending time with them is a good thing. Constant moaning drags even the happiest person down. There is no escape, it’s like gravity: the more moaning you hear, the more you will start losing your energy and positivity. Look at this funny clip from Friends and you’ll get the idea (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_DeoqBfH9M)
* If, on the other hand, you think you fall in the whiner-category, you need to act now. Take a good look at your relationships, listen to yourself when you talk to people: are you complaining? If so, are you doing it in a constructive way (more on what this means later)? If you are, stop immediately or otherwise people may start cutting you off, excluding you from what they do. Why? Well, if I go to Disneyland I want people who are energetic and enthusiastic with me, not someone who complains that lines are long and the taste of candy is too sweet.
With this first part I hope I have addressed two main things you should keep in mind at all times:
1- There’s a difference between a perceived problem and a real one. Focus on the real ones only and force yourself out of your perception of things. For more tips on how to see the difference, check out my latest post on Feedback
2- In tackling a problem, attitude plays a key role (and I’ll go more in depth in the next section)
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A REAL PROBLEM
Ruling out perceived and made-up problems, we are left with real ones and we have to deal with them.
Tony Robbins has a great quote about problems: “Every problem is a gift. Without them we would know grow”.
This is why I said problems in life are a great thing.
This is the first thing that I believe someone has to do when dealing with a problem, and that is: see the problem as an opportunity! Problems are not problems if we consciously choose to see what is on the other side of them, and that is our growth, learning opportunities, development. A problem is a situation we don’t know how to deal with, but if we find a way to deal with it… then we have learned how to deal with that situation and this learning will be helpful in some other future situation. The more problems we deal with, the more situations we unpack and understand, the more we’ll be prepared whatever life throws at us. So my first suggestion is really to change our perspective, and feelings, about a problem, turning the “I hate that I am having to deal with this!” Into a more constructive “Thankfully I have this opportunity to grow and learn”. I understand in some cases this might sound idealistic, but you’ll see the benefits of this approach in the following points. #BeALearningAnimal
While the previous point is about the approach you have to the problem, this one is what I consider the first step in preparing yourself to the solution, and that is: Detach from the problem. As you can imagine, detaching from the problem is a lot easier if you see it as an opportunity, instead of feeling the heat of hatred in your body when you just see it as a problem. Detaching is key to look at the situation in front of you objectively and in abstraction, assessing all angles, all dependencies, all possible scenarios. If you are emotional about it, if you are upset, or feel defeated, unsure, afraid… you cannot detach effectively and that will compromise your capacity to accurately craft a plan of action.
So it’s very important that you #StayCool and detach from the problem, leaving your emotions aside, and try to be objective. Good ways of doing this, depending on the situation, could be to take deep breaths, take a walk, talk to someone, ask for a second opinion (this is very helpful if you look at the issue constructively, more on this in a second).
Once you are detached, it’s time to move into action and gather data. In most cases, a problem is a situation we don’t have enough data, or training, about and hence we don’t know what to do. If I take a simple equation [X+2=3] and ask a 3 years old what is X they would probably not know. If I ask the same to an Engineer they would probably (hopefully!) know. Why? Not because the engineer is smarter, or older… it’s just because he had the opportunity to study and learn how to tackle that type of situation. What is great here is that if the equation changes, the engineer would probably still be able to deal with it because he has learned how to solve “equations” and not only that particular one. He has learned a skill, and that skill can be applied to a variety of issues!
So, if you are confronted with a situation that you don’t know how to tackle, it’s probably because it’s new and nobody has ever taught you how to deal with it. So what you need to do is to detach and start figuring out what is that you don’t know that is preventing you from solving the problem, and then #FillTheGap in your knowledge so you can at least try to tackle the issue.
Solution mode = ON
Once you gathered info, it’s time to give a try to a solution. The first tip here is to always think solution-oriented, and this means that you always put yourself in a position in which, once you tried, you are a little bit closer to the solution. This may mean that you actually are one step closer, or that simply you learned something that does not work and you know why #AlwaysAskWhy. This is key because this approach towards learning and thinking solution-oriented will make you learn a lot more from this situation than simply the solution to this specific problem.
There’s a famous quote by Thomas Edison who kept failing at creating the lightbulb “I did not fail, I just learned 1014 ways in which the lightbulb doesn’t work”. This is the spirit!
Another good tactic to move into solution mode, but not before!, is to ask for counsel #GetHelp.
You may wonder, why not before? In the end, if I don’t know how to deal with something, the best way to think about the solution is to ask someone who knows to help out. WRONG! It’s wrong because what will happen if you go to someone and ask for help is one of the two following scenarios:
1) they refuse to help, too busy, don’t care… your pick
2) they do help, solving the problem for you or anyway telling you how to
Why is scenario 2 not good? Because if they do it for you, you don’t learn. The best way to learn something is by figuring it out by yourself, so by asking for help (and getting it) you are compromising your chances to learn.
Moreover, and this is often overlooked by people asking for help, when you seek someone’s counsel with an open question you are effectively putting yourself on a level of inferiority (you can’t, they can). If, on the other hand, you go and ask for help by forming a question like a problem with at least a couple of options you thought about, you are putting yourself on a peer level, regardless of whether the best answer was one of your two options, or a third one that came out of the conversation.
Lastly, by asking for help in this way, it often happens that you get the other person interested in your success, interested in the outcome of what you are going to do… which is a great way to build an effective network of people you can lean on when needed. But you need to be respectful of their time and their knowledge, so never moan, detach and think solution-oriented.
From a practical standpoint, I found a couple of tricks that help me when I am stuck.
The first one is to write things down. I find writing down the problem incredibly helpful in framing a solution. I always do that in the context of “why can’t I do X”. So, for example, if someone can’t swim and is invited for a trip on a boat and doesn’t want his or her friends to know, then the problem is “I can’t swim”. Write that down. Then write “why can’t I swim?”. “Because I never learned”. “Why?”. “Because I am afraid of drowning”. “Why?”. “Because I had an accident when I was a kid”. Ok, so that is the problem. Not that you can’t swim now, but that you had an accident that prevented you from learning. So the solution to the problem is to defeat that fear, learning will come easy once you do that. Go find a psychiatrist, or a group, or anyone that can help you overcome your fear. #KnowWhy
The second tip is related to the fact that we often feel stuck. When we have a problem it’s only natural to do nothing as we have no idea how to tackle the situation… right? WRONG! The best suggestion I have when you feel blocked is: do something! Anything, really, is good. Random actions are better than nothing (within reason).
Why is that? Two reasons:
1) By doing something you may actually get closer to the solution, or anyway move away from where you are now which is a point where you see no solution. By changing point of view you may see the problem differently and maybe from that point it’s easier to find a solution.
2) Doing gives you energy, and energy is what you need to tackle a problem when there’s a good chance that you will fail, at least at first. Action is the best driver of action (same as inaction is the best driver of inaction).
So, the longer you stand still watching your problem, the harder it will become to move towards a solution. Inertia can be a very bad thing, sometimes.
Also, guess what: positivity and energy attract people, as much as negativity and moaning repel people.
So, by doing something you will naturally attract people who want to help find a solution, which is the very definition of leadership 🙂 Managers think, leaders do. And people follow leaders all the time.
The best way I can think to end this post is with a video based on an episode from the JOCKO PODCAST. It’s 3 minutes, but each second is worth listening. I listen to this almost every day and I am not exaggerating when I say this attitude has changed my life.
As always, thanks for reading and please do leave your comments.
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