Most parents take the view that problems are good for children. Problems teach children how to deal with life, how to fix things up, how to become more resilient, self-sufficient and self-confident. Problems help children to see themselves as problem solvers, not hapless, helpless victims.
What happens when you’re faced with a problem? Do you rub your hands and say ‘Oh, wonderful! A chance to take charge and exercise my brain to figure out how to solve it!‘ I don’t know too many adults like that. Somehow, what we see as a growth opportunity for kids doesn’t translate into adulthood.
Instead of welcoming problems and thinking: ‘I’m confident I can fix this up‘, we ignore them, put them to one side to deal with later, or foist them onto someone else to fix up. We might take them home with us and let them spoil our leisure time and turn our sweet dreams sour, but that doesn’t fix them.
Every solution has a problem. One goes with the other, just like steak and chips. As M Scott Peck says in The Road Less Travelled:
Problems call forth our wisdom and our courage.
When we let them.
But when we let them tie us up in knots, problems paralyse us. Our brains freeze, we can’t think our way clearly through them, and we become ‘stuck’ and frustrated.
This is not a good game plan. Much better is to face up to a problem, look it in the eye, and, knowing we have the smarts and the strength to solve it, get started looking for a solution.
Think back through the last few problems you’ve solved and messes you’ve fixed up: what did they teach you? How did they help you grow and mature as a manger?