Challenge: When faced with a difficult job requiring great mental or physical effort, most people refer to the situation as a ‘problem’; those who are more enthusiastic call the situation a ‘challenge’.
As with many people early on in life, I learned the word ‘problem’; it was only much later that I substituted it with the word ‘challenge’.
The first memories I have of the word problem are associated with studying arithmetic in grade school. The teacher would describe something to do with rudimentary mathematics and then write some numbers on the blackboard. At some point, the class would be given a homework assignment that involved taking home “problems” and “solving” them. The problems might be additions, subtractions or perhaps more difficult division or multiplication problems. I remember enjoying dealing with those sorts of problems.
But then something curious occurred; I began to discover other sorts of “problems”. These were the sorts that were described by my older family members in ways that made these problems seem huge, troubling and a real burden. These people talked about “having problems” and when they did, they sounded ground down by these problems and were unhappy because they had too many of them. I rarely heard anything about solving any of these problems.
At some point, I realized that their way of thinking about problems was very different than mine. I looked forward to the challenge of solving the problem. They shook their heads and seemed to be controlled by them.
At first, I thought that this was the way that only my family regarded problems. However, I quickly realized that my family was not the exception; they were the rule. This was the way many, maybe most people, talked about problems.
As the years went by and I became more and more interested in the way that people think about things, it became clearer and clearer to me that this way of thinking was both learned and potentially very debilitating. Those whose talk was dominated by “having problems” tended to have lots of them, looked sad, felt upset and acted in helpless and hopeless ways. They were victims of their perceived problems.
They were people who regularly had bad things “happen to them”.
There are other ways to think about problems. In other words, perhaps the problem is the way in which the problem is being viewed. To uncover the solutions and opportunities that are present within any adversity, we need to step out of our habitual way of thinking if we have a problem-centred life. We need to approach the problem differently.
One way is to use the early arithmetic problem-solution approach that was productive for me as a youngster. Here are some others that I’ve been using for you to consider if “problem thinking” has been a part of your life.
Consider using approaches such as these to create solution Momentum:
– What about calling the problem a challenge?
– Ask yourself “What benefits will result from solving this problem?”
– How would someone who was confident address the problem? Imagine what they would say to themselves and say those words.
– How would a brilliant person approach your problem or challenge?
– Divide the problem into smaller parts. Address each as a challenge.
Think about how you will feel when you meet the challenge.
– Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it?
– Take a new perspective by looking at the problem from different points of view. If it involves another person, put yourself fully in their shoes.
– Reframe the problem as a challenge, or even an opportunity.
Now use these approaches to replace Problem Thinking with Challenge Thinking.