The year is 20,000 BC. You and your family are part of a larger tribe on the move to find a more habitable valley. Conditions have changed and food is becoming scarce, the journey is dangerous but the alternative is starvation.
The light is starting to drop but you still have over a kilometre until you clear the dangerously exposed grassy plains. Among the footfall you hear something new, something dangerous, a problem. Immediately you are on high alert!
A growl followed by the scream of a small child. You launch spear first at the colossal Saber Tooth (Smilodon) standing staunchly over the now limp body of your son. The spear hits its mark & the problem is solved but a new problem has now emerged. Your son bleeds out in front of your eyes as the sound of nearby Smilodon trigger your fears once more.
Our brains are hard wired to find problems. Although we no longer have to fend off Smilodon with tiny spears & battle against the severe conditions of an Ice Age, we still find problems. Problems that we struggle to find a permanent solution to.
When we finally find a solution a new problem seems to arise. We live to find problems! Regardless of how many fires we put out their is always some new issue to complain about, stress over or struggle to solve.
Well let’s figure it out! In this blog we discuss why we always find problems & how to fix the damn problem! Quite ironic really… we are solving the problem of always trying to find problems. Want to find solutions faster and have less pointless problems?
Read on friend.
Why We Always Have Problems?
Last Week we had the privilege of sitting down with fitness entrepreneur & Lululemon Ambassador, Chris Cannon. We recorded a podcast with the main discussion point being goals & how to achieve them. Naturally the podcast drifted towards problems - problems put us in a negative state of mind which makes achieving your goals very difficult.
Here is an example that Chris used; What was the last car you owned? Mine was a Hyundai Sante Fe. In the weeks that followed did you notice an influx of people driving your car? All of a sudden everyone decided to buy a Hyundai Sante Fe in BC! Must be the new trend.
As much as you want to believe that your 1999 Toyota Corolla is making a comeback. That your car is suddenly trendy and that cute girl next door might start noticing you. I have sad news friend, its just the way your brain works.
If we have an image, thought or perception in our brain we begin to pick up on it everywhere we go. Our brains obsess on it! The same applies to problems.
If we start our days off considering all of the problems that need solving, the only thing we will think about all day is.. yep, you guessed it… PROBLEMS! Problems will put you into a negative state of mind, you will feel stressed & wander why a solution won’t present itself.
Problems = Stress = A Negative State of Mind = More Problems
A study conducted by David Levari from ‘The Conversation’ in June 2018 was aimed at answering this very simple question: ‘Why does your brain never run out of problems?'
The results were incredible.
The first study involved comparing faces, the subjects were asked to distinguish threatening faces from non-threatening faces. As the faces were displayed on their screens the subjects decided which were threatening and which were not.
As the faces flashed by the threatening faces were gradually removed from the test. Now you would think that as the threatening faces disappeared the subjects would eventually be left with only non-threatening faces.
As the threatening faces disappeared subjects began categorising faces they had previously considered non-threatening as threatening. The brain actually seeks out problems!
As problems begin to disappear the brain will re-categorise what is perceived as trouble or problematic. So the question arises, ‘Why can’t people help but expand what they call threatening when threats become rare?’ (The Conversation, 2018).
It is all due to the basic way in which our brains process information. We compare what is in front of us in context, to recent interactions & engagements. Let’s use the threatening faces example.
Our brains compare what is threatening based on what we have seen most recently or an average of the faces we have seen recently. So as threatening faces disappear, previously harmless faces may be judged as threatening relative to what is considered non-threatening.
This is called relative comparison & our brains do it because it uses less energy. As early humans in a world brimming with danger, relative thinking was essential for survival. Finding problems fast could mean the difference between life and death.
In modern society relative thinking can be more of a hinderance. In some situations relative thinking is still useful; comparing restaurants, spotting hazards while trekking in the jungle or spotting that car running a red light.
However when it comes to everyday decisions relative thinking just holds us back & results in procrastination & poor decision making. A doctor cannot base treatment or diagnosis upon relative thinking.
Starting a business requires action & complex decision making, not problems that lead to poor solutions. Investing in shares requires a clear head and the ability to ride out slumps in the stock market that may be viewed by a relative thinker as a problem.
So how do we change how we view a problem? If our brain is wired to find problems then how can we trick ourselves into thinking clearly and finding solutions rather than more problems?
Becoming a Solutions Wizard
Like anything worth doing this takes time! You aren’t going to read this blog and suddenly become a solutions wizard. I wish I was a wizard sometimes… Anyway.. Back to the topic up for discussion - Becoming a solutions wizard.
There is a lot of work that goes into tricking how your brain processes information. By applying and continuously practicing these 4 actions you will notice three things; you will see less problems, action more solutions & start ticking off the goals that have alluded you for so long.
These actions do not need to be applied in succession, do what you can but aim to improve on each action daily.
001 - Become Self Aware
Self Awareness is no easy feat and requires continuous work. Self awareness starts by understanding exactly who you are. NOT what you want people to think you are or what people want you to be. Then understand why you do what you do & why you are what you are(Phew! that was a confusing sentence… maybe read that one twice).
Understand your needs & why they drive your actions, reactions & emotions. We are all driven by the same needs & find ways to meet them, ways that are unique to each of us. Some of the ways we meet our needs effect us negatively in the long term, these are what we need to isolate, remove & replace with positive habits.
Peel back the onion. Now that you know your habits & how they meet one or more of your needs peel back the layers & find the true intentions you have behind each of your actions. Find out more here.
You also need to know your weaknesses and limitations, be open about them & decide which ones are worth working on. There will be some limitations that you cannot change or are not worth changing, except these limitations & use them as a motivator as opposed to another problem.
002 - It starts when you wake up
How do you greet each day? Let me hazard a guess; you wake to an obnoxious alarm pissed off that you have to go to work (problem 1). You check your phone and read through all the negative bullsh*t your friends post on social media (problem 2). You get upset because you have to walk to the shower (problem 3). Why hasn’t your shirt miraculously ironed itself (problem 4)!
Before you even leave the door you have accumulated up to 10 problems that in your eyes, aren’t your fault. Problems that leave you feeling as if you are entitled to more. Problems that put you in a negative mindset & leave you closed off to the obvious solution! Gratitude!
Kickstart your day with gratitude and purpose. Take a moment to feel truly grateful for all the things you would normally associate problems with; I have the opportunity to have a warm shower, I get the chance to earn money today or simply I am alive & healthy!
Be purposeful with your movements and focus on getting each task done before worrying about what needs to happen next. Be grateful & purposeful about your morning & set yourself up for success.
003 - Stressed? Take a shower.
As your day starts to warm up you may get to a point where your grateful outlook begins to waiver. Your brain starts to find problems as you drift deeper into a negative mindset. How do you currently react in a stressful situation? What is your solution to mounting problems that seemingly have no solution?
Let me take a guess; You keep working right? You struggle and stress until you find a solution to the first problem but at the expense of your sanity. The result? You fix the first problem but it has taken you so long that you now have a list of ten problems that need fixing.
If you find yourself drifting into a negative mindset the best option is to step away and reset. Step away from your desk, take a walk, have a workout or have a coffee. Whatever takes your mind off the problem… do that! Reset and attack the situation with a clear and positive state of mind.
The best option.. Have a shower! Running water is scientifically proven to help calm you. Our brains associate the sound and sensation of running water as a non-threat, the side effect is a relaxed state that allows you to think clearly once again.
No joke! Some of the best start up ideas come from Entrepreneurs having a moment of clarity while standing in the shower.
004 - Be Purposeful
During a podcast with Chris Cannon he asked a simple question; ‘What are your goals?’ Like most people I went on to describe my goals in great detail. He smiled and said, ‘So you want to be happy?’
At the end of the day we all just want to be happy, we set goals that we believe will bring us more happiness. The catch? We must be happy & in a positive state of mind first. A negative state of mind may still help you reach your ‘goals’ but those goals will turn out to be empty and offer little happiness. In fact they will bring to light more problems & lead to more entitlement.
One of the key ingredients to creating a positive mindset is purpose. Be purposeful with your actions and find a general direction that you want to head in. Your purpose doesn’t need to be one specific goal, it can be a general idea. An idea that guides your movements, decisions & actions. In Chris’s words, ‘Your North Star.’
Be purposeful with every action you take, don’t just do something because you have to. Do things because you have the opportunity & you want to!
We naturally find problems, our brain is wired that way. We also have the ability to be aware of the decisions we make.
You! You are responsible for changing your mindset. You have the information, now use it to make the change. Instead of saying, “I always have problems.” Start saying, “I have the solutions!'“
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Life is Great. Travel is Better.
Paulo & Jacques.