Like everyone else, Covid 19’s interruption of life as normal has given me pause to stop and reflect. I’ve been thinking about what I value, the kind of life I want to live, and the kind of contribution I want to make to others.
And I’ve found a really interesting question to ask myself.
I found it on a site which helps non-profits to use their stories, whilst looking for tips to write my own personal story (side note: jotting down one’s life events can be a damn sobering affair). And while the context around the question didn’t connect with me, the question did:
“What problem are you REALLY trying to solve?”
Oof. I mean, really. It hit me between the eyes, and reminded me of a point made at the Acceptance and Commitment therapy introduction I attended last year: how so often, the problem isn’t the problem, the SOLUTION we apply to it is the problem.
We can avoid the real heart of an issue because we don’t know what it is, or because we fear the pain we predict it will cause us. We create small problems as distractions, loud dramas as we covertly disengage.
Or maybe, it just feels unsolvable. We’d rather look for our dropped keys under the streetlamp, where there’s light, than where we’ve actually been and engage with the darkness.
Asking “What problem am I REALLY trying to solve?” requires clarity, honesty and depth:
- Repeatedly pushing for connection/validation = fear of being unloveable
- Feeling uninspired = not connecting with what engages or inspires us
- Constantly scrolling through social media = feeling lonely and isolated
- Not having enough time for self-care = lack of boundaries and self-worth
It also applies to purpose and mission. When I cleared my mind and allowed an answer to arise, I felt the grief of it in my heart: that people feel unloved.
Not everyone, of course, and not all the time. But I get the sense that it’s a common experience for many, and the foundation of many of their problems.
Perhaps it’s why I so earnestly communicate my love, affection and appreciation to others: I know the pain of feeling unloved like the back of my hand, and how the simple acts of warm attention, presence and listening can be much-needed acts of love. How you never know if it’s the last time you’ll speak to someone.
What problem are YOU really trying to solve?