Everyone suffers. Everyone has limitations. Everyone has a “third rail” in their emotional lives, one they are scared to go near. Everyone has been dealt some kind of bad hand at some point.
Given these facts, how do we survive in the world?
Here’s my take—which you are free to take or leave, of course—on the two most powerful things that you have control over:
How you frame the problem
how you frame the solution.
Is the problem…insurmountable? Hopeless? A dead-end? A tide of corruption that will never end? The obliteration of the earth? Past the point of no return?
Well, then. You were the one who decided on that framing of the problem.
Is that working for you?
Is the solution…impossibly challenging? Just out of reach? Something available only to others who have more power and privilege, with no hopes of shifting social systems or institutions? Something you’re genetically incapable of experiencing? A solution that you could achieve but it would cost too much, so why bother?
Well, then. You were the one who decided on that framing of the solution.
Is that working for you?
Here’s what works for me, when framing a problem:
Everything is figure-out-able (like this problem).
The tough stuff (this problem) will teach me something important.
This (problem) is an opportunity to work with fear.
I get to decide who I want to be (as I navigate this problem), even when all seems lost.
I will be a clear voice holding oppressive systems (this problem) accountable for their behavior.
A diagnosis is not a death sentence, unless I decide that it is.
I will authentically feel what I feel—all the fear and sadness and rage (with this problem)—and then I’ll be able to think more clearly.
Time to think outside the box: what’s the way of framing this, that doesn’t feel hopeless?
Here’s what works for me, when framing a solution:
Anything is possible.
If we work together, I bet that we can inch this in a better direction.
I’ll be part of the solution, even if the odds seem like they are against me/us.
Every day, I show up and do what I can and take pride in that.
Someone with worse circumstances than me has shifted this; what were they doing and how can I learn from them?
New medical breakthroughs happen, all of the time.
New solutions arise, all of the time, and I will hold out hope for those solutions.
Even if I can’t totally fix the world’s biggest problems, I’ll align my values with my actions in service to not participating in unjust systems.
The solutions don’t always have to be hard; where can I make it easy?
Time to think outside the box: what’s the solution that no one might have thought of, yet?
What You Have Control Over
When your relationship is failing, you get to choose how you frame the problem and the solution.
When your bank account is zero, you get to choose how you frame the problem and the solution.
When political leaders are behaving like children, you get to choose how you frame the problem and the solution.
When the scary diagnosis comes through, you get to choose how you frame the problem and the solution.
Framing the problem and solution in a way that feels more hopeful, like more is possible, is the place of powerful control that you want.
You won’t be able to control your partner, your cash flow, your political leaders, or the diagnosis. Framing problems and solutions powerfully isn’t about doing so in order to have control.
Framing problems and solutions powerfully is about deciding that even amid shitty circumstances, you will consciously step into a way of being that feels good. It is a declaration that you are the one in charge of your fate, of your destiny, and that fate/destiny is a life in which you choose the best possibilities even amid bad circumstances.
This is not a palliative that only serves you. This is not “Let’s have you feel good, and that’s all we need to worry about.”
This is a simple truth: if you take on the framing of problems as unsolvable and solutions as unavailable, then that is what you and the world will continue to get, over and over. The world needs you to look at your life and use that as the practice ground for deciding how you want to frame problems and solutions, and the more you practice that, the better you’ll get at it—at which point, the world needs you to step into the larger arena of helping all of us, collectively, take on the problems the world faces and solutions the world needs.
In a world where you cannot control so much, let it be good that you can control this much.
Stop focusing on all the things that are wrong and how hard it all is.
Decide to consciously frame the problems as figure-out-able, even if you don’t have it figured out. Decide to consciously frame the solutions as possible. At the very least, you will feel better. At best? You’ll be part of creating something better.
Oh, and? Don’t wait to do that. Close the digital device, and start now.