You Say You’re A Problem Solver?

People that say they can solve problems are worth talking to because employers often want problem-solvers in their organizations. People who can actually prove they’ve solved problems both in the past and the present however will always get selected first. Yep, there’s a big difference between saying you can do something and actually demonstrating your ability.

Not long ago I had the occasion to talk with an employer and he was sharing with me an experience he had with an applicant during a job interview. One of the key qualities he was looking for in the next person he hired was a person’s ability to take on problems and find solutions. What he was listening for a person to share was specific examples of when they’ve faced problems, what their options were, the thought process they undertook at the time and after weighing pros and cons, what they actually settled on as a solution and then the action they took. Sometimes he went on, the result itself didn’t even have to always work out favourably as long as the thought process and the effort was there. Results he said would come most of the time.

In this one interview, he heard this applicant describe a situation at work where they were faced with a problem while working alone. They related in their example what they did when consultation wasn’t possible and things actually worked out very favourably for all involved. It was as he said, an impressive example of their ability to problem solve. So much so in fact, that he was impressed enough to offer the candidate a place. It was at this point however, that the applicant made an error that cost her the job.

She mentioned to the interviewer that she wouldn’t be able to work on the weekends (a written requirement in the job posting) as she didn’t have anyone lined up to look after her child on those two days. This as he related it, was a current and ongoing problem that she hadn’t been able to solve. How, he reasoned, was she going to be able to solve his problems associated with the business if she was unable to solve this critical problem of her own? Presumably being more important to her to solve her own problems, he could only imagine she’d put less effort into solving the organizations as they arose were she to be hired. She didn’t get the job.

Now lest you think she was immediately asked to leave, he told me that he had first asked how long the problem had existed. After all he reasoned, if she had only just learned that her childcare provider was suddenly unavailable, she could have made a case that it was a short-term problem and she’d have a solution quickly. Her answer however surprised him; she’d had this childcare problem for over a year.

This was to him more an example of her inability to solve a critical problem than any example she could present to him from her past work experience. Here was a very real problem that in over a year she had not successfully resolved. What she was hoping for was that he’d hire her to work just Monday to Friday and that some of his existing staff with greater seniority would be scheduled to work the weekend shifts. How likely would you think an employer and the fellow employees would see that as a reasonable accommodation? That’s thinking from a very egocentric place; the world resolves around me and others should meet my needs.

Problems exist; they come and they go only to be replaced by new ones. There’s a lot of good in being faced with problems actually. Be careful if you wish you had no problems to deal with in your life. Problems present opportunities to use your existing skills, coupled with your life and work experiences to devise solutions. Being challenged with situations that require you to think, research, brainstorm, consult and eventually make educated and sound decisions based on what you’ve accumulated is a desirable skill.

Now some people can solve problems that benefit themselves only; or benefit an organization but at the price of the customers they serve. Other organizations are bending over backwards so much to keep their customers happy that they actually destroy themselves in the process, so that’s not a long-term problem-solving strategy for success.

The best solutions to problems typically start with one’s ability to correctly comprehend and diagnose the problem. This is followed by coming up with the possible options available that will resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all. Ideally all parties want to feel that they have a resolution that maintains the relationship moving forward, meets their own needs and everyone can move forward.

If you are heading into an interview fully advised in a job posting that problem-solving is one of the requirements of the position, you should expect to be asked to prove through examples from your past that you’re a problem-solver. Don’t wait until that moment, look dumbfounded and sputter out some poor example or worse yet, tell them you’ve never had a problem you couldn’t solve. That could just show you’ve never been properly challenged and your skills in this area are underdeveloped.

You might typically be asked to relate past problems with customers, co-workers, management etc. Be ready. Be a problem-solver.




Going Through Tough Times?

In my professional job as an Employment Counsellor, most of the people I interact with and serve are looking for a job. It might be their dream job, a secondary job or a job to replace the job they have at present. This much they have in common along with one other basic truth; they all have tough times, problems, barriers (call them what you will) that they are experiencing in addition to looking for work. What differentiates them is how they react to these.

Now I would think it safe to say that most people would like the tough times to be shorter. The person who lost their licence to a drunk driving charge wishes the pardon process was faster. The guy without a car wishes there was some way he could get to those organizations hiring people who happen to be located far from public transit routes.

Problems; who doesn’t have some? Some are bigger than others and some tend to come and go while others seem to hang around seemingly forever. And honestly, while some folks deal with one big problem, others live with numerous smaller problems that seem to multiple whenever one gets taken care of.

The thing about tough times is that they test us; they test our ability to see them for what they are and they test us for how we react to them; deal with them or not by choice. And make no mistake, I’ve come to believe we have a choice in how we respond to the problems before us. Not everybody likes to hear they’ve got a choice; especially those who feel they don’t have one for that makes it easier for them to continue not to work on their problems.

Why is it that some of us deal with the same challenges better than others? Does it perhaps come down to some of us are just better skilled at handling these issues than others? Maybe that’s so because I often see multiple people with the same issues taking very different approaches to their problems and having extremely different outcomes. You might say to yourself, “Nobody has the problems I do”, but I suspect there are many who do have the same problems you do. That’s not really the point though is it? You have your problems and I acknowledge at the moment they are yours personally.

First off I suppose you have to decide whether you want to live with your problems or choose to work through the problems and eventually leave them behind. If you opt to live with your problems you likely will; they will become part of who you are forever. If you opt to leave them behind, you work daily to resolve them and develop the skills needed to overcome them.

So why is going through tough times so excellent? There are two reasons actually. One is the two key words, ‘going through’ in that previous sentence, and the second is you’re going to have some incredible skills to acknowledge with a story to tell when you emerge free of the tough times. In short, you’re going to feel better in the future and feel stronger, prouder, more confident about yourself soon, and this tough time is going to prepare you for tougher times ahead.

Seeing a problem for what it is instead of what you imagine it to be is a critical first step in problem solving. Honestly it’s critical because often what we imagine the problem to be makes the problem bigger and this can make it daunting to even contemplate overcoming. Name it and if need be, check out what you perceive it to be with someone you trust to share your problems with. They don’t have to offer you solutions or give you advice, you’re only asking them to hear you out and see if you’ve correctly identified the problem for what it is.

Next, determine what skills you have and if you are qualified to tackle this problem with what’s at hand. If you find you’ve got all the tools you need to fix a problem then your only decision is whether or not you want to fix it. If you find yourself lacking in the skills needed to fix an issue, you’ll need to acquire the skills required yourself or bring in someone with those necessary skills and weigh the cost of doing so.

When you do work through tough times, you emerge into a period where the worst is behind you. Things feel brighter, the load is lighter to bear and whatever you did to work through those tough times stays with you; you’re now better equipped to use the same skills in the future if and when similar challenges spring up. Next time, you’ll be better equipped to identify the problem faster and work on the solution with more enthusiasm because you’ve done so before. In short, you’re evolving, learning and putting your past experiences to good use as you strive to work through whatever has occurred.

Whether your professional or personal life, the memories of how you’ve overcome are important to recall, and remembering how you overcame them means remembering how formidable the problems seemed at the time. Hence the advice to not forget your past problems but focus on celebrating how you overcame them.

Dark or tough times aren’t fun to be sure, but they sure add vivid contrast to the good times to come.

What You Silently Deal With

If you’re in any one the helping professions you probably have advised those you support to be open with you and share whatever issue(s) they are dealing with. It only makes sense you figure; after all, know what they are dealing with and you can best respond to their needs. Why then I wonder, if this such wise advice, do you and I not then reveal to others that which we are silently dealing with?

All kinds of things come to mind; embarrassment, shame, pride, fear of isolation, rejection,  bullying, teasing etc.; take your pick. Of course what you’re dealing with and the environment you are in and the people you might share your personal issues with largely determines how you may or may not proceed.

If you’re dealing with depression for example, you might find yourself going out of your way to be perceived as, ‘up’, friendly, funny and nice to be around. Could be that your circle of friends or co-workers would be surprised to find out you’re depressed and taking medication to stay on the even keel. They mind say, “What you? Depressed? No way. Really? Wow, I’d never have guessed.” While that might be nice, it doesn’t really help you other than to know you’re masking things well and fooling those around you. Is fooling others though what you really want to do?

What if it’s not depression though? You might instead have a criminal record you’re doing your best to keep from being made public. Depending on what it’s all about, you might even worry that it would cost you your current job if it came out publicly. You’re carrying that load and walking around each day hoping it doesn’t catch up with you.

These are the kind of things that affect us in two ways; in and of themselves they impact us and secondly we stress about the impact disclosure would bring upon us. Ironically, you might feel the very fact that it’s your personal secret makes talking about it with someone – anyone – impossible to do as you’ll fret over that person intentionally or accidentally revealing what you want kept private. But if you could tell someone, well, that alone would in another sense be a tremendous relief.

I bet we’d all be surprised and in some cases downright shocked if all the people we met as we go through our days wore visible labels; identifying their demons, secrets and health concerns. While it would be revealing to see what others are really dealing with on a day-to-day basis, how eager or comfortable would you be exposing your own label(s)?

I wonder if it would eventually get to be a non-factor in time if everyone publically advertised their issues? You know, you walk around and in the beginning you’re fascinated and appalled, shocked and surprised. However would we ever get to the point where we’d just say, “Oh yeah…” and think nothing of those labels because they become so commonplace? I imagine we’d rather everyone else publically display their issues and then eventually we might give it a go and reveal some but probably not all of our own issues.

Imagine as an exercise you sat in a group and everyone went up to a table and picked up a number of post-it notes, each with a problem, issue, disease, secret or mental health condition on it. Then these were affixed to the persons top so everyone could see. Imagine too that everyone was free to pick up something they don’t deal with or they could pick up exactly what they are dealing with at the same time; as no one would actually know if the issue was something they lived with or were just picking up for the exercise. Say for the next hour, people just milled around and talked, asked questions, told others how they think they’d feel but said it as if they actually had that ‘thing’ and pretended it was real.

How would you feel if you had a criminal record for real or dealt with depression and you were asked point-blank, “So why did you do it?” or “How do you cope with depression and what’s a bad day look like?” Would you tell the truth or make something up? Would it be a relief to say out loud how you feel knowing that the other person wouldn’t really know if you were being honest with them or taking your best guess as to what that would feel like?

What I’d also think we’d find interesting is to hear someone else wearing a label that we actually deal with talk about it in their words. Would they be accurate or far off the mark? Would it make us feel relieved to be having conversations about our issues in this manner? Would it help or hinder our ability to then have conversations with others when the exercise was over? Hmm….

Whatever you’re dealing with, it’s not like you’re the only one carrying that issue and living with it everyday. Sometimes we can find support and strength from sharing with others who then find the courage themselves to open up.

If you’re not ready to share your personal challenges, that’s okay. When the time comes you’ll recognize the opportunity before you and will have to decide to do so or not. Be it a friend, a best friend or a total stranger, I hope you do.

Learn To Rise Above

You won’t always be successful, but more often than not you’ll achieve what you wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m talking about trying to rise above whatever frustrates, annoys, infuriates or holds you back.

It’s so easy to look at what seems unfair and unjustified and give up. Worse yet, some people put an enormous amount of energy into building up their own barriers; they complain and seek out others who sympathize with them and support their own negative view. Sad but true is the fact that if all that energy was redirected into trying to change things around and work towards a positive solution, moving forward would come easier and stagnating would be a thing of the past.

Setbacks happen to everyone. Whether it’s being turned down for a job you really wanted, an unexpected expense that you didn’t budget for, running late for the big interview; the world isn’t conspiring to work against you. Let me modify that statement; the world isn’t conspiring to work against you unless you view things this way. Then I absolutely agree that the way you view things, the world is turned against you.

Some people see the good in everything; the glass is always half full. To others, the negative is where they go instinctively; the glass half empty. But can’t you always just fill up the other half of the glass and make the discussion of whether things are half full or half empty a moot point of discussion? And sometimes a half empty glass is what you want – as in the case of that awful stuff they give you the night before a colonoscopy to empty your bowls. Who wants a full glass of that stuff!

Working on daily basis to rise above the petty stuff that you might be going through is a good practice. Little things like your child wanting a ham sandwich instead of a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Why squabble over the issue? Rise above it once you realize their digging in their heels? It’s a sandwich; relax, no big deal. Now you might say that rising above a squabble over a preference for one sandwich over another is pretty minor – and I agree it is. The same principle however applies to the bigger things.

Take running late for that interview you want so much. Running late is never a good thing, but at some point its essential you a) realize your late b) consider what your options are and c) act. Instead of scowling with stress and taking dangerous short-cuts or speeding risking a long delay with a policeman and a fine, consider your options. Maybe you can call the interviewer and reschedule, advise your running late but will arrive shortly and apologize, or you might even find an alternative route that gets you there on time. Rise above the situation.

It seems to me too many people seem to be hitting the panic alarm too frequently and quickly these days; making much ado about situations which in the larger picture aren’t really all that huge. Are we losing the ability to be confronted with problems and deal with them sensibly and rationally?

I bet you can think of a few people who react with tremendous drama when faced with problems. Instead of sitting down and thinking about how to resolve the issue, they go around telling the problem or situation to people all over the workplace. They tell the same story, emphasize the same points, expect you to react with, “Oh you poor thing!” and if you do, they labour on even longer telling their tale. Give them a, “That’s too bad, want a suggestion?” and they roll up their nose and move on to a more sympathetic audience. They don’t really want solutions after all.

When you learn to rise above the small stuff in your life, you are better equipped to use the same solution-based thinking to deal with the larger issues. Earlier I mentioned being rejected for a job you really wanted. Well you can get down on yourself, wallow around and empty the ice cream container in the freezer while you curl up on the couch in a fetal position and feel sorry for yourself. Conversely, you can rise above the setback, proactively seek out some feedback from the interviewer, apply in earnest for more positions, and move forward. The sooner you do this, the less you dwell on the job you didn’t get and start investing in other opportunities you may actually be better suited for.

The same goes when you suddenly find you’re in the middle of a gossip session. You can participate and engage which is juicy and delectably fascinating, or you can rise above the situation and tactfully remove yourself or re-direct the conversation. When you do so, you show good judgement and you rise above instead of being sucked into something unhealthy and unproductive.

Be careful by the way in learning to rise above situations. There is an inherent danger that you may just become a more productive person; become empathetic instead of sympathetic, and you may just achieve more than your used to. Such is the way of people who rise above situations.

Start by seeing things for what they are, not what you imagine them to be. Determine courses of action from which to choose and then act as you see best to be successful.


Who Will You Be? Ever Considered This?

One of the things I enjoy about my job as an Employment Counsellor is the many people it brings me into contact with and hearing their life stories. Ask somebody to tell you their story – and give them the time to tell it – and you’ll learn some amazing things.

There are a lot of people for example who chose at some point to drop out of school. Some of them saw getting a job the fast track to moving on with life at the time. Others dropped out to support their family, and in others, their families placed a low value on education. The ones going back realize that getting their grade 12 is important, and it’s their current struggles and success they relate that draw you in.

Oh and the job seekers? Ah, they have fantastic stories to tell. Their tales involve hopes and dreams, rejection and heartbreak. Their stories extol resilience, tests of self-confidence, self-esteem, documents composed, communications both sent and received. Here are the peaks and valleys, the aspirations, the musings of how a single job offer could be life-changing and how much they’ve got riding on a single application. They relate investments of energy, time, precious funds, negotiating debts, losses and new hopes rising.

You want more stories? I hear people I interact with daily tell me their stories of dysfunctional families, being cast out themselves; relationships they had high hopes for dashed. There’s suffering, abuse, death, birth, joy and pain, sorrow and ecstasy. Their stories sometimes involve police chases, crime, scandal, rehabilitation, drugs, sex, fresh beginnings, re-settlement and fears. There are greedy landlords, kind bus drivers, relentless bill collectors, volunteers in soup kitchens, shelters and bargain stores in their lives.

It’s interesting because if you think about the movies and books you love most, don’t you find that many of the tales involve some heroic figure overcoming their disadvantages; working through their challenges? They are constantly faced with setbacks, they sometimes fall into despair or if they don’t, they have every reason to. At times, they undertake a quest, some journey to an end; helped along the way by people that come and go, sometimes misled by others. When the book ends; the journey complete, they feel a sense of accomplishment, and they almost always are better people for what they’ve undertaken.

There are such real life stories all around us where the hero or the heroine is walking past you on the street, making your sandwich at noon, reading a book at the next table in the library. They don’t look remarkable in any way, blending in as they do with all the other people moving about. They don’t have bulging muscles, don’t carry swords, daggers and axes; don’t have rings, gems, treasure maps or traveling cloaks. They are however real and they exist not in the pages of some book but right here before you.

The really cool part is when you suddenly realize that if someone were chronicling their journey and writing the novel of their life, this is the chapter where they came into contact with…you! Now what will they write about your influence on this person? How does your own life interweaving with theirs influence their path? Will you be the person who could have provided help and assistance but was too busy to lend a hand, or will you go down as the kindly character that gave aid in a dark time when aid was unexpected and sped the hero or heroine upon their way?

Another thing that’s pretty awesome to think about is this. Think of someone in a series of movies or books that you admire. Frodo, Anne of Green Gables, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Wonder Woman or Luke Skywalker. These characters are in a finite number of books or movies. You and I however, touch a significant number of lives each day and are thus interwoven as characters in many stories. In a single day, you and I are characters – major, minor or incidental – in more people’s stories than all the books that exist for any one of those I mentioned above. Sherlock Holmes helped clear up many problems and assisted many people, but when the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stopped writing his stories, you could count them and they were over.

Every time someone says, “Can you help me?”, “I’ve decided to go back to school” or you overhear, “I’m so frustrated!”, you’ve got an opening. This is the moment you get a choice on how you’ll be thought of and written up in their story. This interaction could change the course of their day, brighten their day and lighten their load…Who knows? It may be a small and incidental thing yes or maybe something bigger.

So how does it feel to see yourself as a character in literally thousands upon thousands of books chronicling the stories of the people you come into contact with? In any given day, you and I might be a helpful soul, a listener, a supplier of money, a purveyor of goods and services, someone who could have helped but didn’t, a jester or wise man with wisdom to impart. Why we might even be someone who learns from the main character.

You and I; we get all kinds of chances with each interaction throughout a single day to be supportive, helpful or a roadblock. How will you be portrayed in their journey?

What Does Your Job Teach You?

When you are looking for work, one of the most natural things to do is to look for a job where all the learning you have accumulated to date will allow you to compete successfully to obtain the position. Employers predominately are looking to hire people with the skills, experience and backgrounds that will benefit the company either on their bottom line, enhance their image, accelerate their growth and visibility or some other form of benefit.

How often however, do we look for work thinking to ourselves, I want a job that I can learn from. To be sure we might do this when we are young and just starting out, and again we might do this when we are changing fields of work. But I truly wonder if what we are saying to ourselves in those moments is that we are looking for something to learn but only to the point where we know enough to be competent in the job. So 7 or 12 years into a position, is there anything else your job teaches you?

I’m guessing you can think of people who are going through the motions in your own workplace. They are fixtures in the company, worthy of being respected and have earned their place in the company. But do you sometimes get the feeling, or even hear them say aloud that they are no longer challenged? That there is nothing further to learn in the job? I believe when you get to that point it’s rather a sad state of affairs – well to me personally at any rate.

Now in my situation, we’ve got a new computer software program which is taking people some getting used to across the entire Province of Ontario. And the learning going on is tangible, measurable, and it certainly is good for the old brain to be stimulated in this way. Aside from the software though, my work brings me into contact with people each and every day. And it is from these people that I learn the most and am the better for it.

I am fortunate to share my work day with approximately 50 or so people. That number includes Clerks, Employment Counsellors, Supervisors, Secretaries, Family and Mental Health Counsellors, a Psychologist, Receptionists and of course a wide diversity of clients. Each of these people, if I look for the opportunities and take advantage of them when they present themselves to me, has things to teach me that I can learn from.

For example, I can observe how one staff member’s personal style resonates with someone whom another staff person finds difficult to deal with. I can listen to the varying tone and pitch of a colleagues voice that makes what she has to say all the more interesting and encourages those around her to listen. I can recall the manner in which our Manager relays information, passes on praise and challenges us to do our best. And yes, even when there’s an issue arising, I can appreciate the delivery and the sensitivity with which it is delivered by a Supervisor.

From all of this and more, it is the case that my own communication style has changed. I suspect that like me, you either consciously or unconsciously find your way of doing things change as you learn to separate what you appreciate in others and what you find leaves a poor taste in your mouth. Sometimes we try to copy or mirror the best in others and see if how they handle themselves in certain situations would bring about similar outcomes for ourselves.

For learn we must; all of us. When we learn, we evolve, we grow in value not only to our employer but to those around us, our co-workers, our clients, our families and most importantly to ourselves. As we learn new skills, open ourselves to new ideas and as a consequence our self-esteem goes up and our self-image improves.

Be prepared for the truism that often real learning can be challenging on two fronts. First it challenges our own belief system sometimes secondly even when our belief systems aren’t being challenged and we embrace the opportunity to learn new things, we don’t always have the pre-requisites that will make the new learning smooth. Both of these are not insurmountable barriers to learning unless we see them as such, but rather once worked through make the lessons or information newly acquired all the more sweet when we master it.

So learning a new way of constructing a home might challenge the basic principles which a builder has been using on the job for a couple of decades, but if open to the possibilities, there exists the chance to not only learn a different way, but perhaps one that is more economical to build, less expensive to maintain and takes less time to create. To fight that opportunity is sometimes based more in fear about being made obsolete and being revealed as not capable of the learning.

So what does your job teach you? What opportunities for learning have come about over your time where you now work, and more importantly what opportunities exist in the present and are just on your horizon in your workplace? When we learn we continue to grow, and when we stop growing, we curtail that capacity to learn and evolve.

All the very best to you this day!

Giving Of Yourself Too Much Can Be Dangerous

Is it even possible to give of yourself too much? Yes it is. But there’s no harm in that is there? Yes there is.

Do you know someone who has issues of their own they are working through, or should be working through, and yet they spend much of their time listening to and helping other people? I know more than just a few, I know a lot of people like this. And there is an irony that these same people being called on to listen and provide supportive advice and counselling are themselves dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, low-self image and self-esteem, financial hardship, mental health issues and parenting issues just to name some of the more common problems they face.

There is an inherent danger for these people which they sometimes realize but more often than not fail to do so. In their futures, there is likely to come a time when they become incapacitated from being able to not only help others, but their own lives and feelings of usefulness deteriorate and not understanding why, come to resent themselves and it can end very badly.

Allow me to explain. A simple analogy is a tall pitcher with liquid in it. If that full pitcher represents ones capacity to give, there’s enough there to give away. So yes it’s your pitcher but you are able to provide yourself and others with some of it quite happily. But now there is less in the pitcher and some of those people come back for more. Well this time not everybody is satisfied. First of all those that take some may get less than they’d like and the ones who get nothing are disappointed there isn’t anything for them. You? Unless you find a way to add more liquid to the pitcher, there isn’t any for you either, and you’re unable to draw from it yourself.

So in real life what does this look like? How about the single mother who is raising two teens, one of which is bitter, mad at the world, blames the parent for the driving the spouse away. The same single parent is trying to stave off the landlord from evicting them, somehow catch up with utility arrears, caring for aging parents that say she doesn’t visit enough, sees the cost of food rising beyond what she can afford. Now throw in unemployment and while attending some workshops to improve herself, one of the two kids at home isn’t going to school and the school is demanding attention to the matter and summoning her in for meetings.

So here we’ve got a person trying to appease school officials, meet her children’s needs, placate her own parents who are ill and aging, find money to pay utility arrears and landlord increases, and while keeping all these people happy by giving them her time and attention, is neglecting herself and her own desire and need for employment. That’s quite a juggling act. How many more stressors do you think such a person would be likely to add to this juggling routine before everything falls apart? Well let’s add the two or three friends who constantly come to her for advice because she’s so good at listening. Hmmm….

In such a situation, I can’t pretend to tell you there is one solution that would be right for everyone or even best for everyone. But generally speaking, I think it’s time – high time for this person to be given permission to become a little selfish and spend some time in self-care. In other words, if you give and give until there is nothing left to give, not only will you be of little or no use to anyone you care about, you’ll be paralyzed and unable to function which will make you not only unable to help others, but you’ll resent yourself for your inability to do so. You may come to see yourself as a failure; a failure as a parent, a provider, a good child to your own parents, a good listener for your friends, and at worse a person of value. Stop seeing yourself as a good person and you’re in trouble.

Being selfish in this respect might mean telling those friends you’re taking some time to get things in order and can’t give them the time they’d like for a while. It might mean exploring help in the community to get those arrears paid off and by swallowing some pride keep the lights and heat on. It might mean telling a rebellious angry teen that believes it’s all about him that it isn’t; and that some family counselling, better behaviour and school aren’t options anymore, they are mandatory and the alternative is the door.

Again, I’m not advocating the above as the only solutions, nor the best ones for everybody. Fail to take care of yourself and get your own life together however, and you’ll have less ability to help the very ones you love and want to be there for the most. Being selfish in this regard really has the long-term impact of continuing to be able to give of yourself, but much more effectively.

Share your load with someone in a professional capacity who may suggest help you don’t even know exists. You’re going to feel better, like yourself more, and ultimately juggle less things daily which makes it all the more manageable.

Got Problems? You’re Normal

Whether you found this blog on your own, or someone happened to send you the link with the suggestion you read it and benefit from it, I’m glad you and it came together and thanks for that. So you’ve got some problems in all likelihood. Some of those problems are small, some big, and maybe you have ones held deep inside like a secret you keep hoping no one will ever expose.

Having problems to deal with is normal and I’ve yet to come across anyone who hasn’t got any whatsoever. Sure there are times when people say they haven’t got a problem in the world, but that’s not entirely true in my opinion. I think it’s more accurate that they don’t have a problem in the world they can’t overcome. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be able to overcome any problem that cropped up?

So what is a problem anyhow? Let’s look at a problem as an impediment to being able to accomplish something you want. Some problems are external ones, like a flat tire. That flat tire is impeding your desire to get somewhere so it’s impacting you, but the flat tire is on the car not you personally. Still you have to deal with it. So you fix it yourself or you call for help if you lack the skills or need a good tire and don’t have one yourself. Problem solved.

Some problems are personal or internal on the other hand and often are viewed as harder to overcome. The loss of a leg for example is highly personal, yet while some without one see it as disabling and life-ending, other’s adapt with artificial limbs and refuse to be held from moving forward. They create a mindset of a new ‘normal’, instead of seeing themselves as disabled. Note how many ‘disabled’ athletes just went to Sochi Russia for athletic competitions but they didn’t call it the Disabled Games?

When a problem crops up, it’s normal for the brain to process what the issue is, and next attempt to develop ideas for removing the problem so you can accomplish the goal. Look at an external problem first. So if the problem is that the printer didn’t spit out the document you were trying to print, you would investigate. Is it out of paper? Is there a paper jam? Is it plugged in. Once the problem is fixed, you’d hit the print button and see if that fixed the issue. If it did, your brain would learn this solution, and the next time something didn’t print, the problem wouldn’t seem so big, and your anxiety wouldn’t be so high initially either. Eventually after fixing the printer many times, it would be a very low stress problem to deal with.

But on to the big problems. The problem may be something you have been trying to deal with on your own for some time. It could be days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. Big problems in your opinion, and your opinion is what matters isn’t it? How YOU see the problem because it’s your problem. Please consider however that maybe because of the very reason you see it as YOUR problem and yours alone to deal with, that kind of thinking is the very thing that is keeping you from coming up with a solution. Just think about that.

Remember that flat tire example? The solution was either to fix it yourself if you have the skills or call someone to help if you don’t have the skills or a replacement. The same is true of big problems you can’t handle on your own. If you and I assume you want to resolve your problem and move past it, what’s keeping you from sharing that problem with someone who can either help you directly or suggest someone who can?

Is the problem embarrassing? Are you afraid someone will think you’re being silly to worry about it? Are you trying to overcome your shyness or change your appearance in some way to feel better about yourself? What’s the problem? There are very few – and I do mean very few – problems that are new and no one has ever had to deal with before. So it stands to reason then that others have had the problems you have now and have somehow overcome them completely, or are working on resolving them. How do they do it? More importantly how did they get started if that’s another problem you have right now.

Consider first sharing that problem with someone you trust. When you share your problem or problems, you don’t burden the other person with your issues, you actually give them a wonderful gift; as weird as that sounds. You give them the problem yes, but you also give them your trust and an opportunity to help. The right people will appreciate what you are doing, and if they are in a position to help they will. Don’t be discouraged if you tell somebody your problems and they say, “Suck it up. Think I don’t have problems of my own?” That just means you haven’t found the right person to help you yet.

We all DO have problems to overcome. It’s not a contest to see whose problems are worse. The bigger the problem, the more you’re going to feel a huge rise in your self-esteem when you overcome it. Share with someone who cares.