When I stumble across a really good book, given what I know about how busy we all are and how little time, money or interest we have in reading every great book; I am of the opinion that it’s up to us to share what we learn and discover AND (at the same time) promote the great work and efforts of those who put their heart and soul into publishing their views.
Reading Mark Manson’s book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*k’ I found myself reliving many of my own values and principles, especially the one on ‘Happiness Comes from Solving Problems’.
A bit of back-story…
In September 2000 (just after the Sydney Olympics), I participated in a program on personal transformation – a program designed to empower people to live a life they love and live it powerfully; which inevitably came down to being authentic (to stop pretending we have everything handled) and dealing powerfully with life – and let’s face it, life does throw us some rather large and complex curve balls.
I was only 27 at the time; and while I’d been incredibly successful, it was the first time I experienced being slapped in the face with a massive paradox on how I was living my life – striving for happiness by running away from my problems (like moving from the Gold Coast to Sydney to get away from a bad relationship), instead of owning them and having power in dealing with them head on.
So powerful was the result (like getting a 25% pay rise 3 days later) that for the past 17 years I’ve made it my life’s work to empower others to be true to who they are, and instead of running away from their problems, face them head on and create problems worthy of their life.
Just like death and taxes, problems are constant in life. No matter how much we wish our problems would disappear; problems don’t disappear, they just get exchanged for new/different problems.
Let’s take our health and relationships as an example.
When we solve our health problems by buying a gym membership, we create new problems like having to get up early, sweating up a storm on the treadmill for 30min, and making sure we go enough times ‘every week’ that we’re getting value.
When we solve the problem of not spending enough time with our partner by designating Wednesday “date night”, we generate new problems like trying to figure out what the hell we’re going to do every week – something we both won’t hate, something that won’t send us broke and something good enough that we rediscover the chemistry and spark we lost.
Inevitably what it boils down to, is that happiness doesn’t come from not having any problems; happiness comes from our ability to solve problems, so…
Sometimes the problems we have are simple: eating good food, catching up with friends, going to the gym, or travelling to a new place.
Sometimes the problems are abstract and complicated: fixing our relationship with our mother, finding a career we feel good about, developing better friendships, ending poverty or finding a cure for cancer.
Whatever the problem, the concept is the same: Happiness comes from solving problems – so best we start creating problems worthy of our time and our life.
Unfortunately for many of us, life doesn’t feel that simple. That’s because we screw up in one of two ways:
1. Denial. Many of us deny our problems exist in the first place; and because we deny reality, we constantly delude or distract ourselves from reality.
Denying the problems we have in our relationship, the problems we have with our health, or the problems we have in managing our finances or keeping down a job etc; by distracting ourselves with making new friends, burying it under the carpet as if it doesn’t exist, or volunteering our time to help others, may make us feel good in the short term, but eventually it leads to a life of insecurity, neuroticism and emotional repression.
2. Victim Mentality. Some of us choose to believe there’s nothing we can do to solve our problems (even thought in reality we can). As victims, we seek to blame others, or outside circumstances for our problems and while it makes us feel better in the short term, in the end it leads to a life of resentment, anger, loneliness and despair.
No-one likes to admit they’re a victim (myself included) but on close inspection, saying “it doesn’t matter what I do, it will never change or it will never make any difference” is the response of a victim.
Whether we like it or not, agree or not; blaming others for our problems is part of being human – so if you’re sitting their thinking you’re not a victim, you should know you’re only denying yourself and others the opportunity of being connected and embracing our humanity and giving ourselves power.
We all do it and we do it for a simple reason that it gets us off the hook (for dealing with the problem). It also makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us a quick high and a temporary escape from our problems.
Unfortunately however, those highs, which come in many forms: alcohol, the moral high-ground, sex, food, or the thrill of a new and exciting adventure; are nothing more than shallow and unproductive ways to go about one’s life.
The more we rely on these highs to make us feel better; the more we seek them out and the less power we have in ever solving our problems.
We all have our own chosen methods to numb the pain, and in moderate doses there’s nothing wrong with it; but the longer we we numb the pain, the more painful it will be when we finally confront the problem (which I can tell you, is inevitable).
There are two questions we must ask ourselves:
1. What Problems are Worthy of our Life?
Do we want to spend our life worrying about what the kids are eating for dinner, whether the mums at school like us or not, not taking action on what we’re passionate about because we’re worried about what other people will think, getting upset because someone won’t help around the house or feeling like crap because we just don’t have the time or energy to get to the gym?
OR would we rather spend our time knowing that we’re making a difference and being a contribution to others? The choice really is ours.
2. Who are we going to be about the problems we have?
Are we going to avoid them, deny them or play the victim? OR Are we going to know ourself as someone who can and does make a difference, someone who is powerful, brave, courageous and confident? Again, the choice is up to us.
It may not occur that simple, especially if you’ve been avoiding or putting up with problems for a long time; but it really is that simple.
I’ve made a choice to live my life being compassionate, courageous and confident; and having my life be about making a contribution to others living a life they love – to know themselves as someone who does deal powerfully with their problems, and to create problems worthy of their life!
It’s not always easy, but my access to living that life is to be open, vulnerable and authentic about what my life looks like – it’s not always pretty, but I share it with an intention to hold myself accountable for living the life I’m committed to – one that makes a difference.
What choice are you making?
Enjoy this article? Take action in your life, see what great results you get and share with us what you discover.
In the meantime here’s a plug for the work and references on ‘Happiness Comes from Solving Problems from Mark Manson ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ (c) 2016.
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