Answers to Lifes' Problems

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Life Changes

There are many things in your life that require making major decisions, and lots of major decisions in our office. These decisions are sometimes so monumental and stressful they can put you in the hospital.

One decision making method I teach my students is the “3 x 5 card technique”. Go to your local office supply store and buy a package or two of 3 x 5 cards. Write one problem on each card. Use as many cards as you need, but only one problem per card. This is the hard part; put the cards away overnight. Try not to think of your problems for just one evening. In the morning, or the next afternoon, read the cards one at a time. On the back of each card, write as many solutions to the problem that you can think of, no matter how crazy or foolish and they may sound. On the third day, spread the cards on the floor of your living room solution side up. If a solution appears on one or more cards, do that first. You have just closed several problems by implementing a common solution.

Before making a life altering decision, put it to the following test.

  1. Is it important that I make the decision now?
  2. Is the decision appropriate to the problem?
  3. Is the decision modifiable?
  4. Is the decision worth the feelings of the people around me?

We often feel we are being forced to make a decision. Ask yourself if you feel good about making the decision in this moment of your life. Who is pushing you to make the decision and what do they have to gain from each “decision outcome”? By delaying your decision you may find that you can marshal your forces, gain new information, or that the problem itself may mutate into a new form.

Deciding whether the solution actually fits and solves the original problem is another important point to consider. Does the solution create new problems, or in itself become a new problem? If your car develops a flat tire, a simple solution is to fill the tire with concrete. This solves the flat tire problem but the additional weight on one side of the car will make it nearly impossible to drive, to say nothing of destroying any economical fuel savings. (It is not good for the suspension, either!)

Your decision being modifiable is very important. If you have a problem and implement one solution, it is always advisable to have a way to abort the solution. A decision that is not modifiable may just cause your own demise. If you are on a ship at sea and discover a fire, you immediately have two problems. The first problem is to put out the fire, but that requires water. If you put too much water inside a ship, it will sink. You can see that the solution to your first problem creates a second problem. It might be good to know that if you are able to turn on a fire extinguisher that you have the power to turn it off.

The last test is truly the most difficult because the answers are purely subjective. Imagine that you have two brothers who decide to get married on the same day in cities many miles apart. It will be impossible for you to attend both weddings. Which wedding you decide to attend will inevitably cause hurt feelings. Deciding to attend neither will cause further hurt feelings. Obviously, the answer is for you to have a heart attack, be placed in a local hospital, and get a note from your doctor (the coward’s way out!). Perhaps a more diplomatic method would be to suggest that brother move his wedding date to another weekend, so that his brother could attend his wedding as well. If that fails, how about trying to get your brothers to hold a double wedding, after all, the majority of the people in your family would probably want to attend both weddings. You are off the hook, and everyone wins! If neither brother can move their wedding date, you will have to make a decision, and you will have to live with the consequences.

If you are totally lost, steer by the stars that used to guide you

I often say that if you are totally miserable, sit down and think about a time when you were happy. Think about where you were living; who were your friends; and what were you doing that gave you personal growth and value. Can you recreate any of those parts and relive those happy days.

Mistakes teach you something

When Thomas Edison was trying to invent the incandecent light bulb, he made failed several thousand times. It wasn't his genius that led to success (although it helped!) it was his persistence! Edison did not think that any of his failures were actually “failures.” Edison said “If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward....”

Edison tried to invent many thousands of other products -- most of which failed. However, Edison filed for (and was granted) over a thousand patents including the light bulb, phonograph, moving picture cameras, printing telegraph equipment, fruit preservation equipment, electric locomotives, kilns for making concrete, automobile wiring systems and electroplating equipment. Persistence.

Copyright, 1975, 1980, 1995, 2009 Robin Roberts


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