“I don’t fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.”― Louise Hay
Do you struggle to fix or resolve problems in your life?
We all have areas in our lives that seem to always cause us problems. Sometimes they are easy to fix, however at other times there never seems to be a solution in sight.
It can be become physically and mentally draining looking for an answer, but why is this?
What gets in the way?
I want to offer a perspective, I have found very useful that is based on Buddhism wisdom, which I learnt many years ago during my stay at a Thailand Monastery.
It’s very simple in theory but can be challenging in practice.
Understanding the nature of the problem
There are many ways to fix problems in life. However, sometimes we can tend to get stuck.
Very few, in the frantic modern world we live in, allow themselves the luxury of time to resolve problems in their life.
The natural inclination is to look for the quick fix and rely heavily on habitual ways of addressing problems. Yet this can become the problem with the problem.
It limits our ability to clearly see what is going on. Image your mind as a glass of clear water. Stillness gives clarity all around. However, if you add a substance and stir the water around the clarity gets lost. The more things get shaken up the harder it becomes to see.
This is just like our mind. We have to wait for things to settle before decisions can be made.
It then becomes important that we focus on changing our perspective by adopting a different approach.
Understanding the nature of the mind
Often, when people first find out they have a problem they really don’t know what the problem is. They know the symptoms. They know they feel uncomfortable. They know they want to make changes.
Yet when they can’t get to the heart of the issue and diagnose the problem correctly then it will always be challenging to fix.
So then the next question is what is getting in the way of us seeing the problem clearly?
What is blocking our ability to diagnose our issues?
The answer is we have too many biases and filters blocking what we are truly seeing. Our vision of reality is tainted with a lot of emotions and judgements.
When we’re angry, we’re envious, we feel hurt, we feel betrayed or we feel humiliated emotions will cloud our decisions.
Similarly, because we may have been hurt in the past we had developed habitual memory patterns to keep us safe. It’s our survival mode in full operation. We sense fear and our body’s natural response is fight or flight. The fear of potential hurt does not allow us to let go.
The outcome is we create stories and judgements that cause us to ruminate. We image worst case scenarios- ‘This may happen or that may happen!’
It’s just another example of how things interfere with our ability to see the problem clearly.
We tend to make rash generalisations about the situation, ourselves or other people. Sometimes we don’t have all the facts and our ego gets in the way.
How often have you found yourself blaming someone for a problem, only to find there were other factors impacting events? In that moment of judgement did you consider the other persons point of view?
How to fix a problem
To help eliminate the issue and smooth out the fixing process we can break it down into 3 simple steps.
The first step is to identify the issue and then the second one is to start to fix that issue. This is very simplistic yet it’s a great starting point.
What typically gets in the way of people starting to make changes in their life is step number 1. When we haven’t been able to gain clarity around step number 1 how can we approach step number 2 with any real confidence?
We end up going round in circles. The stories and the judgments cloud our focus. We end up arguing about something that has nothing to do with the real problem.
# Step 1 – How to diagnose the problem
The first step is to identify the issue, but how can we do this?
What is the underlining issue?
The analogy that can best help you understand a new approach to solving problems is a long car trip.
Image you’re driving along and midway through this very long trip the car starts overheating. There’s smoke and a lot of strange noises. Now your car has a problem. You keep driving and luckily make it to a roadside mechanics.
What is the mechanics first step?
The first step, so he doesn’t get burned, is to allow everything to cool down. That time of patience then allows him the opportunity to diagnose the problem with the car.
He starts to see this issue for what it is. The mechanic will then run a test on all the parts without any pre-conceived story or without any judgments. The mechanic just looks at what is in front of him- here’s the tires, here’s the pipes here’s the radio, here’s the engine.
By breaking these parts into small bits one at a time he can easily diagnose the problem that needs to be fixed.
So translating that back to our problems in life we just step back, take a breath, and allow the emotions and the judgments to cool down. Just allow everything to just settle. We can then start to analyse our situation very clearly without any other side noise. We appreciate the undisturbed clarity of the conditions.
Then we are at a stage where we can move to step number 2. Now we can start to fix the problem.
#step 2- Fixing the problem
When people are clear on the problem they better informed on what they need to do.
Unfortunately misdiagnose is at the heart of most problems that never get resolved.
What generally happens is that people will try to start fixing their problems when they are still overheated. When you touch something that is hot with emotions or judgements you will get burnt. It causes reactions. When we are reactive we can’t see clearly and we make poor choices.
This simple two stage process takes time and patience to master but can be greatly helped by including a step 3.
#STEP 3- Developing wisdom
The reason why we have difficulty fixing our issue is because when our lens of looking at the issue is not clear we’re not able to see our problems neutrally.
One way to purify our minds and develop the wisdom that allows us to explore and fix our problems is meditation. It insulates us from all the outside noise and all the things that come to interfere with our ability to observe the problems in our lives.
So step number 3 is engaging in regular meditation practice. It allows us to learn how to purify our mind so we can develop wisdom and insight. This translates to the ‘know-how’ when you see everything as it is.
We use the wisdom that we gain from this stillness, from this practice of meditation, and we now can start to fix our problems with ease.
The noise that keeps coming to bombard us gets less and less now we have more space to hear ourselves. By training every day we’re developing the skill of this neutral observer. Any thoughts that come into our mind we learn to just observe without engagement or judgement.
Just like the car we take ourselves apart. With this neutrality during meditation we start to see we have these habits. How we engage in patterns of thinking. How these thinking processes then bring up these emotions. Then we start to see how these emotions cause us to react or behave in certain ways.
Many people have a difficult time fixing their problems because they’re too reactive. They’re judging this current moment. They’re judging the conditions that are confronted with.
When we do this it’s interfering. We get in our way of diagnosing our problem clearly.
Don’t make up a story. Don’t make up a drama.
Just allow yourself the time to see things as they really are. Take a deep breath and allow things to cool down. Then with a sense of neutrality we can accurately diagnosis the problem and start to fix this problem.
Try it out and let me know how you go.
Remember stage 1 and 2 will get easer over time especially when stage 3 and meditation gets added to the mix.