Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Solutions masquerading as problems

The events of this long day have delivered me to one of life's wonderful paradoxes: How often we become so focused on "problems" that we fail to see them for what they really are — solutions.

The negativity of grappling with "a problem" prevents us from embracing it as a "solution."

But when we do manage to step back and perceive "problems" as "solutions," it is often nothing short of liberating.

An example or two might help. Being rejected for a job may seem like a problem, but it can also be a valuable learning experience and the chance to land a job where you are valued. The end of a relationship may not be an end at all, but the beginninng of a new, stronger, healthier one with the same person as well as with someone else.

(Yes, I know this is beginning to sound like one of those self-help or pop psychology texts, but bear with me. I know where this is going.)

The idea is related to one that comes up in my "Information Gathering" class. Researchers advise us to "look for the questions in our answers." Of course each of THOSE questions lead to more answers — ones we would have missed had we stopped with just one answer.

So how is this related to reframing problems as solutions?

Ultimately, we should merge these two dualities (problem/solution and question/answer) into one.

There's nothing new in any of this. The Chinese have taught the wisdom of merging Yin and Yang into Yin/Yang for centuries.

And Zen Buddhism advises us to go a step farther by expunging the very words "problem" and "solution," and "question" and "answer."

That's hard for us, but it's worth a try—except that we shouldn't "try" it at all.

The only way to do it, Zen would say, is to be it.

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