“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” -Henri Kaiser

Life is a problem solving opportunity. This is the premise that provides the inspiration to approach almost any activity with the open-minded, curious, out-of-the-box thinking that allows something better to come out of almost any situation. When one door closes, another always opens is nature’s correction and mechanism of balance. Our problems invite us to see the world in new ways; they keep us honest and awake.

I have come to this over the course of the positivity quest, where it became clear that the challenges I was facing were doors that were waiting to open for me, and that what needed to happen was to reach a new level of thinking and seeing to see the challenge for what it was. How often do we go back to the same response or look in the same places for an answer that wasn’t there the last ten times we looked. Something electric happens when authentic problem-solving kicks in: almost like a different currency of electricity in your brain and suddenly there is an opening.

In actuality, problem solving is a close cousin to decision making. Many a time, when we are most stuck it is because we haven’t yet acknowledged that the problem that needs to be solved may just be a difficult decision that needs to be made. Few of us are acquainted with decision sciences and some hard decisions feel like a problem that is bigger than us. Learning a basic sequence of analyzing and comparing options seems basic but can be remarkably helpful.

Even more often, the real problem solving dilemma is one of sustained attention. We resist staying in the discomfort that goes along with the space of not knowing and so we either jump too soon or we avert our attention and miss the golden moment of recognition. Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Giving things time to find resolution and keeping an open mind during the process is surprisingly sometimes all it takes.

The great gift is to try to make friends with your challenges. Learning the art of living side by side with what is unsettled and uncomfortable gives it time and space to morph into something else. It was a good day for me today in that way. There was some letting go that happened first that opened the door for another fresh look and then with just a tiny push forward, I was connecting to a possible solution.

The truest thing I can say about problem solving is connected to what I always tell myself about quitting- that almost always, the solution to the problem is just beyond the moment of turning away. Learning to stay, to wait patiently and believe in a solution, even when you can’t quite imagine it is key.

So nice the days it shows itself. Reward deserved.