Problems as Opportunities

Everybody has problems. Life is a series of people, events and circumstances that come into our lives—often disguised as “problems.” But problems aren’t really the problem. It’s how we deal with problems that creates our experience of life. What usually happens when we encounter problems? We can get stuck, depressed or angry. We can become unfocused, helpless and defeated. Sometimes we become the ostrich with our head in the sand and pretend there is no problem. Notice how things have a tendency to spiral downward from there? Or how that one problem snowballs into even bigger problems if not addressed in a timely manner—or not addressed at all?

What would be possible if you were to expand the way you think about problems? What would be possible if you asked yourself the question, “What is this problem an opportunity for?” Even asking the question is like opening a door or an invitation, isn’t it?

It’s very powerful to look at “problems” or “breakdowns” as opportunities. When I say “breakdown,” I’m not referring to an emotional or psychological breakdown that might require the care of a mental health professional. It’s simply when something happens that you consider to be a problem or issue—and life just isn’t going the way you want it to go. Here’s an example of what I mean: A few weeks ago, my car broke down in the middle of an off-ramp right by a busy shopping mall—at the height of rush hour traffic. I used this literal and figurative “breakdown” to create opportunities for myself:

  • To request support from my ex-husband. Triple A said it could take as long as 2 hours to get a flatbed tow truck to me. So I asked my ex-husband if he’d be willing to come pick up our son who was with me and take him to an appointment. This meant he would have to leave work early to support me. To even ask something of my ex-husband is huge for me. We’ve been divorced for 12 years, it was a difficult divorce and really hard for me to reconcile this kind of event in my perfectionist world. Fortunately, we have come a loooong way in those 12 years. However, when I’m afraid, to ask him for anything is like an admission of imperfection or weakness. But from Essence—our pure, essential nature—we come from our inner knowingness, our inner strength. From that place, I asked myself what was possible. Magic and miracles can happen from that place. I chose to call my ex, whose office is only about 10 minutes from where my car broke down. He graciously came right away. This also created an opportunity for father and son to spend some extra time together unexpectedly! It also created relationship with my ex-husband, who seemed pleased that I would ask and allow his support, and then to be acknowledged and thanked for it.
  • To request support from a friend the next morning to take my son to camp and bring him home since my car was in the shop. Again, this was a biggie for me: In fear, I’m a team of one. Super hero. The many-breasted mother. Often doing for others without regard for myself. You know how perfectionists get a lot of extra credit and attention for being so over-top-fabulous and efficient? It is also a lonely existence. It takes a lot of energy. We do that perfectionist thing for love and approval, ultimately. There’s a much more satisfying and authentic way to be rather than “perfect” to have what we crave. And that is to be who we really are: Essence. From that place, I could see this was an opportunity for me to reach out to my community, be community, be on the planet like it was a team sport. My friend was happy to take my son to camp for me and, in fact, a regular summer carpool arrangement was born of the request!

All this from looking at the breakdown as opportunity! Asking yourself this one question can shift your experience of life. Life will be full of problems solved; full of wins, successes, action, joy, freedom and power. All of these things inspire you to new heights that you might not otherwise have access to. It takes you from being at the effect of the circumstances, people and events of your life, to being at cause for how things turn out.

So the next time a problem arises in your life, consider choosing another practice: Taking on that problem as an opportunity. I recommend you write or print out the question, “What is this an opportunity for?” and post it in several places as a visual reminder to practice this.

How do you see you might benefit from this practice? Please leave a comment in the box below and share your experience. I’d love to hear from you!

4 comments to Problems as Opportunities

  • Gena

    I have a quote posted where I can read it often throughout my day. It says:
    “The measure of a man’s true character is what it would take to discourage him.”

    Often times I am so busy adding up my troubles that I can forget to count the blessings.
    No matter how small or not, it is always a gift.

    =)

  • Heidi Lee

    Thank you for posting this great entry, Denise. I applied this principle this week when I found myself unexpectedly quite ill shortly after you posted this entry–and was amazed at the difference it made in allowing a complete life-shift and access to a total reinvention.

    At first I was highly frustrated, feeling completely betrayed by my body and, well, quite frankly feeling sucker-punched by the Universe…AGAIN. After remembering your words, though, I decided to take a new approach and look at where the opportunity might be in this “problem.”

    In doing so, I was able to see that it was an opportunity to make my overall health and well being, particularly my body, the highest of my priorities. Generally, taking care of my body at the level it is deserving falls down a few rungs on the priority ladder.

    Seeing this one thing that was out of balance in my life provided me the insight that I’ve had my priorities all jumbled up and I now have structures in place for a major overhaul in some very exciting areas of my life!

  • Gena and Heidi, thanks for posting your comments! I love hearing how applying this practice in your life is making a difference for you. I am reminded of one of my favorite Stephen Covey quotes for you, Heidi: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Your excitement is obvious!

  • Heidi Lee

    Thank you, Denise! I’ve saved a copy of the quote to use as a reminder and to refer to in general.

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