Have you noticed that our Problems are usually outside of our Comfort Zone? Think about it: what’s within our comfort zone is the tried and true of our life, our habituated reactions and coping mechanisms. It feels good and safe within our comfort zone because we constructed it with the precision of a master-builder to protect ourselves from what we feel like we can’t or don’t want to handle. So our immediate reaction to a Problem from inside our comfort zone is to do what we have always done: fix it, apologize for it, avoid it, deny it exists, or try to blame it on someone else. These strategies keep us stuck because they are all just a rehashing of the problem at the same level they were created. There is zero Possibility for creating anything new or exciting in our lives and there is zero Possibility for innovation or true leadership in our organizations. And if we stack up enough Problems for long enough, even the strongest and most stoic among us will come to a complete and utter stop. Ugh.
The way out of this fresh hell is understanding our Problems as openings for Possibility. When we shift our context from there is “something wrong” to “this is what is so,” we emotionally and physically uncouple ourselves from the habituated thoughts and actions of our comfort zone. “What is so,” can be found by looking at the problem just as a set of facts, without adding history, circumstances or interpretations to it. Once we have accomplished that uncoupling, even imperfectly, we we can get to the exciting work of creating Possibility by asking ourselves: aside from the problem, “what is so,” what are we truly committed to in this area of our life? Once we are clear on our overarching commitment, we can take action in line with it. We might still be upset, angry or sad, but we will have created a space for the Possibility of something new, unexpected, and delightfully unpredictable to show up in our lives. How cool is that?
A powerful way to gain mastery in relating to Problems as Possibilities is to start small and practice often. So, the next time something doesn’t go quite as you planned, like dropping your bag of groceries on the floor, shift from “this is wrong” to “this is what’s so.” Drain the Problem of its power over you and then check your commitment. If you are still committed to providing a home-cooked meal for your family, then take action in line with that commitment, rather than from “I shouldn’t have dropped the bag.” Soon you will have sorted though the mess and made a delicious omelette from your cartons of broken eggs and leaky milk. Do it often enough, with patience and compassion, and you will make the broken and leaky cartons of your problems into a raft robust enough to sail to new lands where anything is Possible.