“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”-Theodore Rubin
Sorry for the gap between blogs – a result of taking a well needed holiday from all things work.
Back to our series on the Conditions of Uncertainty. This is in response not only to our times, which are turbulent, but also to a new workshop that Angeles Arrien and I are leading on the topic. (For more information on this four-weekend conference, Meeting the Challenge of Uncertainty, please follow the link in the margin to the extraordinary conversations website. See “What’s New.”)
Problems, problems, problems. They are everywhere you look! Problems are commonly viewed as situations that are unwelcome, disturbing or harmful. As such, they are held as a threat to our well-being – and sometimes they are.
Mostly, though, problems are encounters with the unknown and unfamiliar that renders us uncertain. This, of course, is the terrain of Visionmaking, so you can imagine that Visionmakers hold problems differently from the average person.
Many of us see problems as dilemmas. A dilemma is a problem that can only be solved through a choice of equally undesirable alternatives. We can already see the negative bias in the definition. If we hold that problems provide only undesirable alternatives, of course we will search for those alternatives and prove ourselves correct.
Visionmakers prefer to see problems from the perspective of opportunity. They recognize that every problem initiates an inquiry. Inquiry, a formal and systematic investigation to gather knowledge, is the response of the curious mind to a mystery.
Problems, from the vantage point of Visionmaking, open a doorway into a state of immersion. Only immersion-deep involvement that requires the full application of heart, intellect and will-can penetrate to the depths of a problem.
This is where the path of a Visionmaker and conventional behavior diverge. Most people avoid their problems until they are forced to deal with them. Visionmakers embrace problems as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Sufficiency, courage, objectivity, tenacity, flexibility and creativity are the chief resources required-and developed-by problem-solving.
Sufficiency is the allegiance to our knowledge, skills, gifts, talents, resourcefulness and creativity over the fear that we will not be able to solve a problem. Sufficiency allows us to trust that we can prevail, even in the face of uncertainty and adversity.
Courage is required to face our problems directly, without blinking. Courage, the strong-hearted ability to stand our ground in the face of a challenge or threat, allows us to confront a problem despite our fear. When we confront our problems and overcome them, courage grows.
Objectivity allows us to meet a problem with curiosity, dispassion and detachment. From this stance we can examine how the problem is constructed, its components, where it springs from, and what keeps it in place. This information is necessary because within the composition of a problem lies its solution(s).
Tenacity is the capacity to stay with a problem as long as it takes to see a solution. Many times, problem solving is sabotaged by the inability to maintain the quest for an answer. Albert Einstein maintained, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Flexibility allows us to view a problem from multiple perspectives. Expansion of vision is critical if we are to see hidden opportunities for forward movement and flexibility provides the latitude required for the search.
Creativity is the capacity to approach a problem from an original perspective and construct a resolution that is bold, inventive and resourceful. Creative solutions are the product of problem solving. In devising them, we expand our vision of possibility and open new frontiers in our thinking, behavior and relationships.
Just when we thought that problems were terminal afflictions, we discover they are doorways to expansion and growth. Who knew?
© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.