Why do we have so many problems?

Right now you may be experiencing some problems in your life. There might be problems at work, with your spouse, with your health, with your children, with your friends, or with money.

It could be that just when you thought you were getting a handle on things in your business and everything is running smoothly, you start having a problem with an employee. Or maybe you are having issues with a supplier that you thought you could rely on.

Maybe you’ve been doing everything right to train your 11-month old daughter to sleep all the way through the night, then for no apparent reason, she suddenly regresses to waking up every 2 hours again. (my wife can relate)

The ‘problem’ isn’t so much that we have problems. It’s that we expect that at some point in the future, if we keep working on our problems, that we will no longer have any. Some far off nirvana where happiness is assured.

The fact is, you are always going to have problems. The are an inevitable, inescapable, fact of life. Sometimes you may seem to have few problems, and other times you will have many to deal with. Some will be big problems, and some will be small.

If you expect that you wont have any more problems in your life, then disappointment, unhappiness and resentment wont be far away. It’s time that you uncouple your own happiness and state of mind from this expectation, and realise that, like it or not, you are going to have more problems.

I think there are two steps to dealing with life’s problems in a more productive way.

The first step is to acknowledge, and expect, that you are going to have problems. For some people, this might seem akin to giving up, acknowledging defeat, or that they are powerless in the world.

On the contrary, I think this constitutes a far healthier attitude to life that provides enormous power. If you spend less time and mental effort suffering over the fact that you are having problems, then you can spend more time actually doing something about them.

The second step is to learn to notice your state of mind when problems crop up, and to look at them differently.

The Dalai Lama summed up a more useful way to frame problems on Twitter.

There are always problems to face, but it makes a difference if our minds are calm.”

If your mind is calm, you are allowing the high performance part of your brain, the pre-frontal cortex, to go to work on your problems. If you allow yourself to suffer or become stressed or anxious about your problem, then the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol shut down these areas of your brain, and can also have long terms implications for your health.

So how can you remain calm in the face of problems, especially if they are big ones?

This is going to be the subject of a future post, but for now I think the best way to learn how to remain calm is to learn how to meditate. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day.

If you are not sure where to start, there are plenty of great apps to help you learn how to meditate. I personally use Waking Up, by Sam Harris. There is also Calm and others.

So embrace your problems, and rather than being a burden, consider them a side effect of getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. A breakthrough may be just around the corner.