The value of looking for solutions over looking for problems
Some people look for problems; others look for solutions.
The problem, to me, with people who look for problems is that they can get good at it. When you’re with them, you may find yourself surrounded by problems you never would have found otherwise.
What I like about people who look for solutions is that they find them. When you are with them, you tend to enjoy yourself, unaware that problems even came up. They may not even be aware “problems” existed in the first place because they made them fun.
Personally, I have less and less time for people who look for problems. I fill my life increasingly with people who look for solutions. It’s a better life for me.
Imagine you’re approaching a club with an exclusive door policy. Someone looking for problems might fear rejection, not know what to say or do, and not approach or approach in a way that will fail. Someone looking for solutions might think of a few ways to have fun with the list-person and get in no problem.
Real-life example 1: a victim
My earliest recognition of this dichotomy I remember came from a girl I dated many years ago. Or rather from her mother. Her mother was always sick. I dated the girl and knew her family for years. Every single time I met her mother she was sick. Or rather claimed sickness because I don’t remember the sicknesses ever being debilitating. Whenever she mentioned her problems, someone from the family always gave her sympathy and attention.
I tend to think of people who find too many problems and exacerbate them as victims — people who look to the past, others, and things outside their control for their problems — rather than survivors.
Real life example 2: problem solvers
The other example of this dichotomy were two school friends I used to go dancing with about a decade ago before they moved out of New York. Going dancing in Manhattan is fraught with challenges, as anyone who goes out knows. Places can have no space, lists can be lost, plans change at the last minute, etc. These two, no matter what came their way, always managed to have a good time. I always had fun with them. If they invited me somewhere, I never asked where, or who the DJ was, or who else was going. I knew we’d have fun. I realized this once most poignantly when I was at a party I wasn’t enjoying, got a call from them that they were on the way, and I decided to stay without a second thought.
Isn’t that what you want for yourself in life, for people to want to be with you without a second thought? That’s the value of looking for solutions over problems.
At the time I realized some people go out to have great times and will do what it takes to have a good time. Only they didn’t put effort into it. They just had good times.
It’s possible my ex-girlfriend’s mother was sick every time I met her. It’s possible I only happened to see my friends when things went well, which was every time (hmm… I remember them telling me about times that didn’t go well. Maybe they saw me the same way as I saw them). I conclude it was their attitudes.
People who look for problems seem to elevate their feelings of self-importance in the process because they bring people to them to look at the problem… and the next after that one is solved, and the next, and the next, and the next.
People who look for solutions enjoy themselves. I think we tend to look at them and wish we were more like them because they’re having fun. I suggest that subtle difference in perspective is as important a change as necessary to become who you want to be.
The more you practice either strategy — looking for problems or solutions — the better you’ll get with experience. I recommend not looking for problems but looking for solutions. Another way of putting it is one of my near-mantras:
Don’t look for blame but take responsibility to make things better to the extent you can.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees