Solving Personal Problems takes Understanding, Decisions and Effort
Maya Angelou wrote her own version of the “Serenity Prayer”:
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
That’s a good way to look at problem solving.
Understanding the Problem
Sometimes it seems so easy to understand a problem, but we often forget to look at the real problem.
Andy has lost his wallet. Yes that is his problem. But take it a step further. What should Andy have done differently to avoid losing his wallet. You cannot solve the problem of the lost wallet. You can report it to Campus police and town police. You can look everywhere you can think of. You can cancel credit cards and apply for a new driver’s license, a new social security card, and anything else that’s missing.
Pauline failed her French Test. Yes that’s a problem, but she cannot undo the fact that she failed it. She can learn better study methods, time management and test-taking skills and work harder to prepare for future tests.
1 .The problems shown in blue are those that can be solved. The light blue represents problems that can be solved fairly easily and quickly. Andy can replace most of what was in his wallet. Pauline can make a better grade on her next test.
If you have lost your car keys in your dorm room, you can find another way to class and later, you can take the time to look all though your room. When you find them, you can solve the real problem. You can choose a place where you will always place your keys so they don’t get lost in the future.
2. The second box (shown in dark blue) represents the problems that will take longer to solve or that are more serious. Juanita is more than 50 pounds overweight. She knows this is a problem and want to solve it. She needs to first understand what behaviors have caused the problem. She is obviously eating too much, and probably eating foods that are not healthy. She next needs to make some decisions. She will change to eating healthy foods and taking smaller portions. She will also begin a regular schedule of exercise.
3. The third box (shown in orange) includes problems that cannot be changed. Instead of finding a solution, you must learn to adjust and adapt. Nadia failed Calculus. This cannot be changed. She will have a failing grade on her record. This grade will lower her grade point average. Yes, she can choose to take Calculus again, but this will not change the fact that she failed a class.
Damian and Dmitry were playing around at home. They bumped into a table and broke the vase their mother was given by her great-grandmother, the vase they brought to this country when they first arrived. This clearly is a problem with no solution. They can get glue and try to put the pieces back together but it will never be “as good as new.” They could hire an expert to do this for them, but it will still be the vase the boys broke.They can apologize to their mother and offer to buy her a new vase. She might forgive them, but it doesn’t change the fact that this vase has been broken and cannot be replaced.
4. The last box (shown in red) includes the far more serious problems that cannot be changed. It can include the death of a family member or close friends, even a more serious problem if you were in some way responsible. It might be getting a divorce. Yes, sometimes a divorced couple will remarry, but the fact that they went through a divorce will never disappear.
For college students, this might include the much dreaded event of failing not just one or two classes, but flunking out of school. For some students, this is such a traumatic experience that they commit suicide rather than face their family’s disappointment or anger. It might help to think about this quote:
Problems are only opportunities in work clothes. — Henri Kaiser
Aaron flunked out of college and spent nearly a month living with friends before he was able to build up his courage enough to go home. And even then, when he started to tell his parents, he couldn’t stop crying. He felt that he had no future, nothing to hope for. His life seemed to be over. It took him several months to understand that flunking out of college wasn’t the end of his life. He still had a future to plan. He got a job and saved his money for the next two years. Then he began taking classes at the local community college. Finally, he transferred to a university and worked hard, this time graduating with excellent grades.
Aaron accepted the fact that he had failed and admitted that it was his fault. He spent too much time partying and very little time studying. So he adjusted his plans. He didn’t give up on getting an education but decided he needed a few years to grow up and decide what he really wanted. This time he would pay for his education by himself.
For Benny, his decisions were different. He decided that he really didn’t want to go to college. He got a job and has worked his way up to foreman. Someday, he’d like to start his own business.
Terrible events like flunking out of college can be “wake-up calls” that force you to think about what you did wrong and to make new decisions about your life.
Making Decisions and applying the necessary Effort
Sometime the problem is yet more serious. You might learn that you have a serious disease and don’t have much longer to live. Clearly, this is a problem and it cannot be solved. Some people spend the remaining months or years feeling sorry for themselves and giving up on life. Others use the remaining time to do things they always wanted to do or to spend time with loved ones. For an inspiring story read about a mother with 3 young children who learned at age 44 that she only had a few years left Garden of Memories