If a Problem Has Your Attention, You’re in Trouble

We hope every journey begins with sunny skies, fair winds, and all needs met. But…

ship…if you’re like me and on a journey to create a life of maximum contribution, the motivation to “leave port” only comes when encountering something I clearly don’t want as part of my life, or something I do. The point is, that you and I deal everyday with “One damn thing after another,” as Sir Winston Churchill put it. What if the thing we are called to deal with right now is the key to unlock what we need for building the life we really want? This week I will be sharing three lessons that changed my life direction, energy, and ouSuccess Charttcomes. Here they are: 1. My mind makes a wonderful assistant, but a terrible boss. 2. I thought I was resistant to change, but I was wrong. 3. What a relief, I’m solely responsible for every problem I have.

1. My mind makes a wonderful assistant, but a terrible boss.

I learned how my language creates many of the “glass doors” into which I walk after working with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (see also Steven C. Hayes) . A glass door is anything that stops me from achieving a wanted goal or outcome. I may have struggled with it for some time (like my addiction to Ben and Jerry’s), or one of my internal mantras about how something “should” be (I should have more money in that bank account. I still have checks left.). Perhaps an example of yours is putting off what you know is important, then regretting that you didn’t use the time you had to produce a quality outcome. Or perhaps, “I should have had parents who loved life so I would be more optimistic and confident.

The Problem

Want to play a game? What’s a struggle for you these days? Here are some starter ideas: If only I could ______________ If only I could stop ___________________ If only I was more _________________ You probably already know that coming up with any answer requires using your mind, but do you know how you used it? You combined two thoughts: one thought about how you think you are + one thought about some desired state. Your mind’s job is to produce thoughts, then compare and judge those thoughts. The mind is superb for language, comparing, and judging, but just try not thinking about that problem or wish for 10 seconds. [hear a ticking sound?] Did you do it? Kind of a trick question, really, because you have to think of it to see if you’re not thinking of it. The real key to getting where you want to go is learning to selectively and consciously choose among the thoughts, comparisons, and judgments your mind offers you. You don’t have to accept the thoughts your mind gives you.You can’t stop your mind from thinking, but you can choose the direction; putting your trust in your experience and in what your heart desires. I’m encouraging you to increase thoughts about what is important to you right now. Problems dissolve when you focus your mind on solutions. It’s pretty freeing to know you don’t have to accept the thoughts your mind offers. You don’t have to accept the thoughts anyone else’s mind offers you either. When you think about the want you selected earlier, did thinking about it ever fix, eliminate, or change it? More than likely, it is as true for you as it is for me, after all that thinking I was/you are still stuck with the same problem. Maybe you’ve discovered like I have, that the more thoughts I have about something I want, the more stuck it I feel.

The Cavemen Are to Blame

It was pretty exciting when the human mind could stay focused on the thoughts it produced. For the hunter and gatherer, thinking kept him from being something’s lunch. Thinking and instinct combined to create worry. Worrying meant staying alive, and staying alive meant reproducing. The hunter and gatherer reproducing is how you got here. So let’s hear it for the time when focusing on the problem was a good thing! Mark Twain is reported to have said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” We have taken the art form of problem focus to the level of being able to invent things to worry about. If only we could get paid for worrying! “I think he just frowned at me. He must think I’m ugly.” “I just got an e-mail from the boss. I’m in trouble for something.” “She’s 30 min. late. She must have been in an accident.”

Successful problem solving includes comparing the desired state to a current state and creating options to try out closing the gap. So let’s go back to your problem. Focusing on the problem keeps us stuck. Trying not to focus on the problem keeps us stuck. Trying not to think keeps us stuck.

It’s like following a recipe that wasn’t written correctly. No matter how many times we prepare the dish, or replace the stove, following the recipe cannot work. It’s like trying to navigate around New York City with a map of Chicago. If we don’t know the recipes wrong or what the map represents, prevented dig ourselves into a deeper hole and have to conclude that there’s something wrong with us. Pretty soon we’re focused on what’s wrong with us instead of how can we get more of what we want to feel happier. Trying to stop thinking about our problems is like thrashing around in quicksand. Were just, get sucked in faster.

The Solution

Instead of focusing on the problem, think about anything else, especially something that makes you feel better. When you have enough energy to focus on what you can do next to get more of what you want, focus on that. Every thought that moves you towards positive energy is a winner. It’s brain food. When you have enough energy to focus on the solution you want you’re taking charge of your thinking factory. Ask for what you want. “This is where I am ________. This is what I want _________. What’s the next thing I can do to get it?” Remember AVO – Avoid Verbal Orders– Write down your current situation. Write down what fill the order of your desire. Write down the next twenty things your mind produces.

The best way to build a new habit is to monitor the changes you want. I can help you change from problem focused to solution focused with a free weekly personalized inventory check list. Watch your progress as you grow into the solutions you want. All you have to do is click this email link and put “Solution” in the subject line. I’ll do the rest. It’s free. You won’t receive spam. Stop any time.

Try it, now.


About Bob Rosen

For more than 30 years I have helped my clients experience greater happiness, health, security, and safety as they learn to make higher quality decisions and take more effective actions.
This entry was posted in Communicating with Seniors, Life Management and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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