When a Problem is Not a Problem

Ok, so I know it is petty but this past weekend it was time to rake up the 10,000 leaves our two red maples cover our lawn with each year.  So I headed to the store to buy leaf bags.  Then I realized I forgot my wallet.  So I returned home to fetch the wallet and headed back to the store.  As long as I was at the grocery store I decided to purchase potatoes.  So I picked up two big bakers for dinner and headed to the leaf bag aisle.  No leaf bags.  Bummer. But I am already there so I decide to buy the potatoes.  I go to the self-checkout and the machine keeps reading errors.  I had to go to another store, sans potatoes, but did manage to buy bags.  However that store didn’t have bag stickers.

What a day loaded with problems, huh?

Or was it?  How often do we let these little bumps in the road ruin our day?  How often are we upset that life is so difficult and that it “never goes our way”?  How often do we wallow in the emotion of problems that we can not find solutions?

We all have problems or issues arise in our life; getting a cold, having business difficulties, having a sick loved one, unexpected expenses, having difficulty completing a simple task like buying leaf bags.  In fact, if we looked closely there is probably not a day in our life that we do not have some issue arise.  But it is how we handle the issue that provides us with the key to happiness.

How often do we have a problem arise and our first reaction is “this shouldn’t be happening!”?  But it IS happening.  That is the truth of the matter.  Being angry at a fact, believing that things should be different than how they are only causes pain.  Imagine how much pain has been suffered over the years because we expect something other than what is actually occurring.  When I arrived at the first store only to realize I did not have my wallet I have to admit that I was angry and frustrated.  I knew I had picked up my wallet and I needed these bags so I could get this project done.  At first I stayed in the parking lot unbelieving of my situation.  But would staying in that parking lot magically make my wallet appear?  No.  I needed to accept the circumstance and take action to make it better.

Once we can accept that the problem is occurring and that it should be no other way, the next thing we do is view the problem as a major obstacle.  “This is slowing me down.”  “How can I make this work?”  “I will never get X done now.”  What if we reframed these obstacles into catalysts for change or for good?  Ask yourself why this speed bump has appeared.  Are you moving too fast, is it not the right thing, or is it not the ideal time?  In my case my bumpy morning trying to buy bags was actually the universe telling me I didn’t need them.  When I got home, my neighbor lent me his mulcher so I could chop up all the leaves for him to use in his garden.  No bags needed.  Perhaps all the obstacles I ran into were telling me to back off because the purchase was not necessary.

Accepting the reality of the situation and reframing it as an opportunity, lesson, or message opens one up to finding new and better solutions to the problem.  If we are stuck in being a victim of the problem, whining about how it is happening to us, or seeing it as a force that can not be overcome, we are no where near the mental attitude we need to have to creatively solve the problem.  In my anxiety, I kept forcing and pushing a solution.  Instead what if I would have come home and told my husband how silly I was to forget my wallet.  I might have then learned that our sump pump was broken and he needed to go to the store.  It would have saved me a few extra tirps and I could have gotten started raking earlier, seeing my neighbor earlier, learning I didn’t have to bag earlier, and having a nice relaxing morning raking leaves versus a whirlwind of anxiousness.

Next time a problem arises for you, and they will, stop.  Accept the circumstance.  Reframe the problem and see where it could be a lesson, warning, or growth opportunity for you.  Then relax and find solutions in the calm that could never be found in anxiety.

Finally, be aware that the meaning of the problem may not appear to you until later.  Do your best to move through the issue and always be open to understanding the message.  It wasn’t until I wrote this piece that I realized the “problems” this weekend were an opportunity to share an important lesson with you.

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