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Joseph S. Rubino 12-17

In our culture, we live out of a deeply rooted belief that there are problems and that problems are bad and therefore to be avoided. We are blind to the fact that labeling something a problem is merely our interpretation of what happened, not an actual event. Also, with the appearance of problems comes the interpretation that something must be wrong - with the other person, the situation at hand or even with us.

With this belief that problems should not be, are unwanted and to be avoided at nearly all cost, our relationship to any person or situation that may prove problematic allows us little room to be powerful. As a matter of fact, we typically go out of our way to minimize our discomfort by steering clear of anything that might lead to the generation of a problem. As a result of this orientation to problems, we find ourselves attaching blame, making excuses, complaining, denying, or otherwise hiding or stepping over problems in order to distance ourselves from them. Avoiding problems impacts our relationships, our productivity and our effectiveness in dealing with others.

The invisible assumption or paradigm we all operate out of is that good people do not have problems. Therefore, if we find out people have problems, the natural thing to do is to get rid of them or avoid them as well.

This orientation to problems causes us to deny they exist or at least to ignore or minimize them. When they do show up, we tend to attach blame to someone else for them. Of course, all this hinders communication and creates suffering.

We typically are unaware of our natural orientation to problems. By being blind to it, this paradigm controls us much like a puppet on a string. We are so deeply embedded in our belief that problems are bad and to be avoided that we don't even see how this notion runs our lives.

Before we re-evaluate our orientation to problems, let's look more closely at exactly what constitutes a problem. Problems only exist when there is an interruption or stop to some prior commitment in place. Without such a commitment, the problem appears considerably less in magnitude and may not even be considered a problem at all. For example, if you get a flat tire on the way to your wedding, it shows up like a significant problem since your commitment was to get to the ceremony on time. To the contrary, if you were just passing the time riding around the countryside with nothing important to do and you got a flat, it would show up more like an inconvenience.

One drawback to our orientation to problems is that to avoid having a potential problem, we avoid making commitments that present any likelihood of resulting in a problem. We play small because we can't risk the problems.

How would you act differently if you actually looked for problems because you wanted the breakthroughs that result from them? Instead of inferring that problems mean something’s wrong, take on the empowering belief that problems are the source of your growing and expanding. Seek out and embrace problems as an opportunity to take you to the next level in your development. Create the expectation that you will always encounter problems and stop running from them. Look for the gold that lies within each one.

Remember, the problem is never the problem. Your relationship to the problem and the interpretation you create about it is. If you seek to avoid problems at all costs, you will play small within your comfort zone, not risking for fear of creating a problem. Instead, welcome problems as the medium for creativity.

Create a powerful relationship to them as an opportunity to reformulate, look for new possibilities and recommit yourself to the original commitment underlying the problem.

The Typical Scenario of Risking and Why People Stay Stuck

You Are In Your Comfort Zone

  • You Make a Commitment and a Problem Shows Up
  • This Creates a Stop or Interruption to Your Commitment (Landing You in Your Discomfort Zone) 
  • This Leads to Resignation and Quitting and A Return to the Status Quo
  • And justification (I knew it wouldn't work, I really didn't need or want it, etc.)

This causes a return to your comfort zone.

Shifting Your Relationship To Problems

You Are in Your Comfort Zone

  • You Make a Commitment
  • A Problem Shows Up
  • You Use the Problem As an Opportunity for a Breakthrough
  • You Recommit to Expanding, Stretching, Risking
  • You Strengthen and Return Yourself to Your Original Commitment
  • Which Leads to an Opportunity for Personal Growth and Development

Welcoming Problems

  1. Identify at least three situations you have avoided because you have labeled them as problems.
  2. What is the underlying commitment behind each problem?Are you more committed to your comfort and avoiding potential problems or to playing full out for something worthwhile?
  3. Create an empowering interpretation that allows you to shift how you currently see the problems you are now avoiding.
  4. What possibilities do you see in each problem area? Which will you commit to act upon? By when?

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