Problems can be a tremendous source of strength.

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Let me ask you a question: How many problems have you had today?

That’s a very broad question and your answer will likely change based on what you consider to be a problem. Is making lunch a problem? What about washing the dishes or getting to work? Should dealing with a difficult coworker be considered a problem?

Every one of us has problems, challenges, or obstacles. These problems differ from one person to the next based on their strengths and weaknesses, circumstances, and value systems.

They span from minor nuisances that briefly frustrate us to moments that force us to change our entire lives. These extremes and everything in between are a part of what makes us the person we are. To whatever extent these problems exist, they are essential in shaping our lives.

For all the pain and suffering problems have created, they’ve been equally instrumental in the positive moments of my life. Even during the highest of highs, the remnants of previous challenges are evident.

That being said, below are a few ways problems have and will continue to be beneficial.


Problems Can Be a Helpful Warning Sign for Bigger Issues

Drivers have road signs to keep them on track, sports teams have signs to increase the likelihood of their success, and airports have signs to get people to their destination. Sometimes, people need their own signs.

Some of these signs can come in the form of problems.

Throughout the years, problems have played a key role in moving me toward my goals. A great example of this in the most literal sense is homework-related problems. As a Sophomore college student, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs through schooling. Throughout this time, homework problems have been one of the best indicators of how prepared I am for an upcoming test.

If I know the material, the homework is relatively easy. There are no long pauses spent contemplating possible solutions, no searching notes for information, and no putting it off until later because I don’t have the mental energy to do it now.

If I find myself repeatedly doing any of these things, I know I have some work to do. It’s a sign that a larger issue, such as a bad test score, could arise if I don’t look for ways to fix the struggles I’m having.

I can’t remember ever wishing for a difficult homework assignment. It’s not something I hope to do, but when it has the possibility of preparing me for a future endeavour, I will willingly work toward mastering the problems.

There are so many times I’ve reflected on past issues and understood how one problem foreshadowed a larger problem. Sometimes, it was a lack of connection that led to unhealthy attachment in friendships and relationships. Other times, it was a slight soreness that led to sickness later on.

If I had taken the warning signs and tried to solve these issues, I could have prevented the larger problems they led to.


Problems Awaken Creativity

My middle school years were the worst of my life. I was constantly in a state of stress, doing my best to simply get through the day. I avoided my peers, hated the thought of going to school, and feared anything different from the routine I had created for myself. I was less concerned with living happily and more concerned with not falling apart.

Somewhere along the way, I started looking at self-help and personal growth articles, videos, and books. I discovered ideas, I hadn’t come across before. Slowly, the days started to get better. I started paying more attention to the good things around me and opened myself up to others. This path has led me to opportunities I believe I would have ignored otherwise.

I was forced to look for a creative solution to get myself out of the hole I had dug.

The solutions that I found during this period have allowed me to be happier than I had been in a long time. Over 5 years later, they continue to show me new ideas and help me reach challenging goals. At the time, I had no clue those struggles might one day help me on my path toward self-actualization.

Difficult problems have often led me to creative solutions I wouldn’t have had otherwise.


Problems Cultivate a Greater Sense of Gratitude

When I look back at middle school, there is one emotion that rises above the rest: Gratitude.

Sure, times were hard. I could feel angry or frustrated, but I don’t. Instead, I find myself incredibly lucky to be where I am today. My life isn’t perfect. I still daydream about things I hope to achieve in the coming years, but, all-in-all, my life is so much better today than it was then.

There will always be challenges around the corner, but few will be as difficult as the toughest challenges I’ve overcome to get here. Every toxic relationship, poor performance, and embarrassing mistake has become a personal shield. This shield gives me the mental strength to know that I’m capable of facing some of the most difficult challenges life can throw my way.

While I often fail to recognize the benefits of certain problems while I’m stuck in their midst, reflection usually shows that I was led to develop a skill or belief of great value. Reflecting on past struggles has shown me how lucky I am.

I think it’s important to highlight that this gratitude is almost always created during reflection. It is only in rare scenarios that I’ve been able to develop gratitude while struggling with whatever issues are at the forefront of my life.

Usually, the insights, opportunities, and benefits don’t emerge until I’m well through the struggle. The gratitude I feel is for the past struggle that I was able to get through. I hope one day to reach the stage where I’m able to feel grateful for the struggles going on right now, but I’ve yet to reach that point.


Using Problems to Create a Path Forward

We all reach points in our life where we are unsure of our next steps. We don’t know what our next goals are and might feel a slight hesitation about starting something new.

During these times, I like to focus on the biggest problem I’m feeling at that moment. This gives me a clear goal to follow. Even if it’s a small problem, it gives me something to move toward. From this point, larger goals sometimes appear along the way. Attempting to understand and resolve the problem is merely the beginning of the journey. It establishes a starting point to move from.

The main point of using problems as a path toward the future is the importance of creating an intention. Many of us are aware of the biggest problems we face each day, but sometimes we fall into a habit of trying to ignore them or feeling unable to change the situation.

Creating the intention to resolve them can lead to new perspectives and allow you to see small ways you can minimize the stress caused by the situation.

This intention setting does not have to be complicated. It could be as simple as: I’m going to sit quietly with myself for 5 minutes or I’m going to write for 15 minutes today. I often find that a few minutes of meditation when I’m feeling stressed helps me look at the problem in a new way. I’ll often realize that I was creating an issue that wasn’t there.

Spending just one minute each day facing a difficult problem is often enough to feel a sense of accomplishment. It is through facing difficult personal challenges that I have experienced some of the most amazing moments of my life, many of which I could have never imagined beforehand.


Conclusion

Problems are one of the things that connect all humans.

No matter who you are or where you come from, you undoubtedly have been challenged by certain issues at some point in your life. With this knowledge in mind along with our goals for a better future, we all have the opportunity to help ourselves and each other with the things we struggle with most.

In my experience, problems have caused their fair share of pain and suffering, but I don’t think they’re something to be scared of or obsessively avoided. Nearly all the problems I’ve avoided seem to have reemerged in a different scenario.

Instead, I choose to view my problems as opportunities to become a better person than before. They may be difficult right now, but through them, I will learn skills that will allow me to create a better future.

If you’ve been facing a difficult problem for the past few weeks, try to take a few moments to understand it. Take a second to imagine what it might be like to be past the problem. What might this problem be able to show you about yourself? What might you be grateful for when all is said and done? How have past problems led you to where you are today?

Much of life is spent trying to solve our problems and learn any lessons we can through the process. With a little questioning, we might even begin to appreciate a few of the obstacles along the way.

Accepting problems for what they are without becoming overly emotionally attached is a huge step toward reaching your dreams.

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