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Focusing on the problem or prioritizing solutions
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‘When we are no longer able to change a context in which we live, we have freedom to choose our own responce to these circumstances’ – Viktor Frankl
One of the biggest misconceptions and sarcastic remarks tied to life coaching is that it is a mere ‘tap on the shoulder’ followed by the recommendation to ‘be positive’. It is also suggested that life coaches offer ‘positive attitude’ as the remedy for everybody’s life struggles.
The truth is that nobody has ever succeeded in being positive ‘on demand’ or when suggested, nor is such an endeavor believable. Positive attitude is not a magic wand, capable of changing one’s current circumstances.
What life coaching really offers is a conversation which will ignite one’s will to find their personal goals and ways in which these goals can be achieved. Life coaching encourages one to replace their passive awaiting for people and circumstances to change after their liking, with an active approach towards their life goals. Furthermore, life coaching supports finding ways in which these goals can be realized. It also provides a conversation through which one can be redirected from what they are lacking, to the resources at their disposal, which could be used to overcome difficult situations. Life coaching provides a conversation in which exchange of perspectives is used to motivate the person to find alternative solutions to their problems.
The definition of a problem is the existence of a situation which is both unfavorable and challenging for the individual, and makes them dissatisfied with the current outcome. It is most rare that a person has everything perfectly aligned and running smoothly in their life. Frequently people face unwanted situations and failed expectations. For this reason, the resolution of one problem can make the individual well-equipped in positioning themselves to actively engage when other, similar situations emerge. This will make the individual aware of their goals and the resources needed to achieve them. It will transform the individual from a passive bystander, waiting for the tide to change, to an active creator of their life.
Experience has shown that there are three types of people who are facing problems:
The first type do not see the necessity of a change in them, rather they want the change to take place in their environment and in other people, according to their expectations. They are not looking for a solution, but an ‘ally’ to validate their points of view and to provide an alibi in the attempt to change others. In this situation, change in the wanted direction does not come easy.
The second group of people is burdened by a certain problem or constellation, they understand the need to be proactive, but are looking for a ready-made recipe and instructions on how to act. They are ready for change, but they want the freedom and responsibility for their actions to be placed in another person’s hands, for instance, with their life coach. These people can benefit from conversations about how to uncover their potential and power to change towards achieving their personal goals.
People from the third group are the ones who are fully aware of their personal accountability and take responsibility in the way they act, but lack a clear goal. They are stuck in emotional barriers, fears, ethical dilemmas and deciding which way to take towards overcoming a challenging situation.
Many times, a useful approach if one aims to overcome unfavorable or difficult circumstances, is to change their perspective by shifting their focus from the problem to the solutions. This does not assume one should disregard the importance of a burdening constellation. On the contrary, it is of vital importance to discuss the context. The challenge is how to go from ‘I want this problem to be resolved (by itself or to have someone solve it for me)’, to a perspective where the individual becomes aware of their own power and potential, which could be used to achieve their goals. To seek alternative solutions and adopt a perspective which can be transformed from ‘life is unfair, why is this happening to me to a perspective ‘life is unfair, but what can I do for my own benefit, in this situation?’. This is not a positive attitude but an active approach to one’s life.
Specifically, this state of being constantly stuck in our problems is what is keeping us from searching for solutions. Often, people will talk at length and in great detail about the context of a situation that is weighing them down (which is certainly not wrong, but rather useful). Yet, when you ask them ‘Where do you see the solution?’’ they find themselves taken aback. They see the problem, but not the perspectives of possible solutions.
Of course, life is not packed with simple, but rather with emotionally charged situations, and rationally navigating through them is not always easy. People are not robots. Sometimes, they are in need of emotional support because they are emotionally burdened and they cannot contemplate about their goals and their future. But when the time comes to ask the question ‘How to move forward?’ options present themselves. Shall we talk about the problems or about the solutions? Shall we talk about deficits or about resources?
Nobody can guarantee a certain kind of outcome, because life is not a dress rehearsal and we only live once. That is why, it is perhaps more useful to see decisions as learning opportunities, rather than something that has to be made with fear, in order to avoid future mistakes. Certainly, the way we choose to resolve our challenges varies from one person to another, and this largely depends on the context, structure and the person’s potential. Some can be comfortable with applying changes quickly, while others may want to think cautiously beforehand. Some might be able to come to a decision instantly, while others might want to prepare well. It is important for a person to improve the connection with oneself, so they can easily define their goals and aspirations and then try to accomplish them through possible solutions.
There is no marriage or partnership where the parties involved entirely fulfill each other’s expectations or exchange an equal amount of emotions. It is almost impossible to find an environment where all co-workers are full of understanding, where there is an ideal boss and the arrangement in the workplace is tailored to our taste. The question is: ‘If someone with a magic wand started to rectify all things which are wrong in a person’s life, would that really make that person the happiest in the world?’ There is this conviction that money solves all problems. There are many examples where wealthy people, who can afford a lot more, are unhappy in the context in which they live. For example, money cannot buy love or happiness.
Buddha once said: The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.
It is important to ask ourselves, when dealing with a certain context ‘What is my story in all of this?’ And to start writing it.