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The brain is obsessed with problems. It commonly views things that involve action as a problem to be solved.
As a coach, I help people see exactly how their brain is doing this. If you think about it, problems don’t really exist outside of brains. A brain has to sense information, and then give it definition and meaning.
That’s how a problem becomes defined as… well… a problem.
One way to zoom out from a perceived problem is to look at all the words your brain is applying to the problem. Through words you can discover the “why” behind something getting defined as a problem in your mind. And if you can imagine stripping those words away, you can start viewing the problem through the lens of neutrality.
I refer to this as baby brain. Babies have very few problems, because they haven’t learned how to define them yet.
- A baby doesn’t know that a spider on the floor is a problem until mom or dad have a negative reaction to it.
- A baby doesn’t know that a drop in the stock market is a problem.
- A baby doesn’t know that global warming is a problem.
Again, that’s because the baby has to learn to define something as a problem in their mind.
If there are no defining or meaningful thoughts about the thing there is no problem.
But as I’m sure you’re thinking right now, in order to create the future we want, we need to think about something as a problem if we’re going to initiate a change in human behavior. And that’s why we should create problems on purpose.
We can use the propensity of our brains to create problems as a tool to shift the energy of humanity in meaningful ways. Here’s an example:
I was coaching a client this week on an issue she had with a male colleague not speaking to her about something they had agreed to talk about prior to making a decision. Instead he went around her and spoke to other male colleagues to make a decision without her input.
The subject of male privledge came up. Privledge in general is a hot topic right now, and white male privledge is under the microscope. Now, male privledge doesn’t have to be a problem. We could continue on in our world with the way things are, and if we collectively decided it’s not a problem, well then it wouldn’t be a problem.
But humanity is waking up more and more to the value of equity, and thus inequity is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in our minds. This, to me, is a great example of a purposeful problem.
You certainly do not have to view it as a problem. In your own mind you have agency and freedom. But if equity is something you value, you get to define inequity as a problem on purpose.
Picking up what I’m laying down?
It’s wonderful to be able to neutralize a problem and take a step back to see if what your brain is labeling as a problem is truly worth the energy it takes to hold it in that space, especially if it is affecting you on a personal level.
But sometimes we want to purposefully see something as a problem, so we can work towards solving it. There’s a very big difference in that, as opposed to your brain just randomly saying something is a problem because you learned to call it a problem.
There is some nuance here, and as a coach I can help you get really clear on what problems are worth holding onto on purpose, and what problems can just be let go.
If you liked this post you might also want to read “Why your brain holds on to problems“.
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