Don’t Let Your Problems be Problematic

Perceive your problems as providing a platform that positions you to be propelled into a place of unparalleled productivity and prosperity.

Like in everything else, it always helps to define your terms before entering into a full-blown discussion about any topic. A dictionary definition of problem is, “a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.” But, a definition such as this is part of the problem. Let me illustrate.

When I go to school with the intention of securing some sort of certification in Math, I expect that a main part of my tuition will be math problems. In fact, if the teacher gave me no math problems, I would ask for a refund of my money.

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Why? Because I expect to be given problems so that I can learn to solve them.  And not only do I expect to be given problems, but I expect to be given increasingly more and more difficult problems, so that by solving them, I will become increasingly more and more competent in math. In other words, the dictionary definition of a problem being something “unwelcomed or harmful” just does not cut it.

But there is still more. When I was going to school, I struggled with Math and in fact failed it at the London GCE O level examination. But because I knew that my future would be blighted unless I could be certified in English and Math, I repeated my Ordinary level Math course while studying for Advance Level courses in English Literature, History and Economics.  Needless to say, I secured my certification in Ordinary Level Math as well as Advanced certification in the disciplines I pursued.   I now opine that it was because I saw the math problems as being unwelcomed and harmful, that I failed the math course initially. The minute I changed my perspective and welcomed the math problems, my God-given brain did what it was designed to do, and solved the problems.

Perhaps it is a good idea to replace the word “problem” with the word “challenge” in every-day life.  Such a move would be a great one because it pushes us in the direction in which the wind is blowing. Most people that I know like challenges, and some are actually excited by challenges. People used to say about me, “if you want Godfrey to do something, just tell him that he can’t do it.”  And I am sure that if that does not also describe you, it describes someone you know.

But whether we like challenges or not, we need challenges. Let me illustrate.

It is a well-documented fact that we need food and water to live. But by the mere act of taking in food and water, we create the need to let them out in the form of waste matter. Not to excrete or pass out the by-products of what we have taken in will lead to constipation, poisoning and eventual death.

But let us say that all we did, day in day out, week in week out, and month in month out, was to eat the most nutritious of foods, drink the purest water and other liquids, and then consistently  excrete our waste matter, in a very short period of time we would become very unhealthy because of lack of exercise. The muscles in our bodies need to be challenged to grow and remain strong. The truth is that almost everybody challenges their muscles daily as we walk, lift things, bend down, stretch to reach overhead items and climb the stairs. But not everybody does enough of these things to effectively challenge their muscles. A good example is probably your couch potato.

On the other hand, the people whose body we readily admire and who get invited to advertise health products on the cover of popular magazines, are people who make time to exercise, at the gym or elsewhere. And call it magic if you want, but the more they challenge their muscles, the bigger and stronger they grow.

What is true of our muscles is also true of our minds. Arthur Fletcher, the former head of the United Negro College Fund coined the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” God has created us with enough mind and brain capacity that it is 100% impossible for the most brilliant person to exhaust it in multiple life-times. We challenge our brain every time we use it, which is all the time, as the brain is involved in every function of our body.

Earlier I spoke about math problems. But isn’t the principle of solving math problems true of almost every thing else we do? Isn’t all we do, including reflex actions, all learned behavior?  What is the difference between driving a manual transmission car for the first time and driving that same car for the hundredth time?  Are the actions on the clutch, gear-shift and gas pedals not the same?  Of course they are. So what then is the difference? And why is it that after the hundredth time, we can concentrate on other things totally unrelated to driving, and still get safely to work and back home?

The repeated challenges to the muscles, brain cells, nerves and other parts of our bodies necessary to operate a manual transmission car result in the development and strengthening of these body parts until they reach the stage where their operation appears to demand less energy, and their operation actually appears automatic or reflex.  And that’s exactly the definition of habits. In fact, the corollary is also true, and I know that you have heard this before… “if you do not use it, you will eventually lose it!”

I encourage you to adjust your perspective to see problems as challenges for you to use whatever you already have, and all that you already know, and whatever is already available to you, to effectively face life’s daily challenges, take you to the next level of performance and excellence.

I believe it was Theodore Rubin who once said, “ “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”.

If you ever visit Jamaica you will soon learn that the “national Pledge” is, “No Problem Mauhn!”, or at least that is what we tell our Tourists.

So remember, as we face life’s challenges from day to day, whether you want to call then problems or not, don’t ever let your problems ever become problematic.

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