Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Problem Solving

I remember back in the days, before I was a wife and mother, when the hardest problems I had to solve included how much longer I could sleep after the alarm clock rang, what outfit I was going to wear to work, and how long it would take me to commute there. I lived on my own, and any difficulties that came my way were almost always of my own doing.

As a new wife I soon learned that I would be expected to be a sounding board for my husband as he worked through solving his own problems. He wanted to bounce ideas off me, asking for my opinion before he decided what to do. It was great to feel needed, but I have to admit, most often I felt myself burdened down with worry over situations where I had no control, and it wore me out. If I went to him to discuss my own problems, he wanted to jump right in and fix it, although that isn’t what I wanted at all. I just needed him to listen, but that isn’t what a man is wired to do.

Once children entered into the picture, the problems seemed to become non-stop. All of our boys are adopted; only one of them at the toddler age. Each of them carried their own set of baggage when they came to live with us. My husband and I have had many trials just learning how to interact with them in a way they might hopefully listen to anything we try to teach. That problem alone has become at times monumental.

As I consider the idea of problem solving, I’m coming to learn that there is no way every problem can be solved. That is especially true when you want to jump in and solve a problem that is really someone else’s problem to solve. Right this very moment, my youngest is sitting next to me whining about what kind of snack he should have. Unfortunately for him, this is not my problem to solve. No matter what suggestion I make, it’s not what he wanted, so there is no way I can give him a solution which will find him satisfied.

Dr. Mike Murdock once said: “You will only be remembered for two things: the problems you solve, or the ones you create.”

As a wife, mother, teacher and adult, I go about solving lots of problems every day. Some of the are minor; some perhaps more great. Perhaps I’ll someday be remembered for those solutions, but maybe not. Solving problems for points only comes in those math class assignments most of us grew to hate. Life doesn’t keep a tally.

If I could build a better mousetrap, find a cure for the common cold, or bring about world peace, then maybe my problem solving actions would make a bigger splash, but for right now, I’m content just solving a few of those little problems and letting the others fade away. If it’s not my problem to solve then I must be content to let others fret over the reasons why.

That brings me to the second part of Dr. Murdock’s statement—“the ones you create.”

The world is filled with people creating problems. All you have to do is turn on the television during any news program to see the evidence. Wars exist on everything from terror to obesity. Violence erupts over both abortion clinics and TV stations that promote shows about people with too many children such as the recent hostage situation at the Discovery Channel. Arguments ensue over both love and marriage. We live in a raging battlefield.

Even in our own lives we often bring on our problems by the choices we make. When we fail to listen to that still small voice, the conscience which is alive within each of us from the moment of birth, we put ourselves onto the path we must take. When our outcomes are not what we had expected, it’s usually because we made the choice to move just a little bit to the side of the road.

Like the train who took the wrong switch path and ended up in New York instead of Florida, one little mistake, one small error can make a drastic change in our final destination. That’s why it’s so important to actually make choices, and not just follow the path of least resistance or the one someone else tells us to take. 

The decision for each of us is whether we want to be held responsible for making problems, or for being the one who is able to come up with the right solutions. And that’s a problem worth solving when it leads us to a better life.

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