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Stop Solving Problems
When all we have is a hammer, lots of things start to look like nails.
I hope you enjoyed the extra hour of sleep last night and are ready to tackle the week ahead. In today’s edition of Prompted, we’re talking about a different strategy for approaching life’s problems.
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Stop Solving Problems
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
When we have a problem we invest in a solution.
When we’re sick we go to the doctor. When we’re bored we pull out our phones. When we’re overweight we start a diet. When we’re stressed we see a therapist.
When something isn’t going well, it’s important to identify the problem and invest in a solution.
Those who can solve problems the best are celebrated. Job descriptions ask for “problem-solvers” and companies sell their products by explaining what problem they solve for their customers.
We are obsessed with problems and constantly searching for not just solutions, but for new problems to solve as well. It’s easy to get caught in a reactionary loop of solving one problem after another and continue putting out fires, but the problems never stop coming.
There’s nothing wrong with a problem-solving mindset, but when all we have is a hammer, lots of things start to look like nails.
There’s a thrill to solving problems that makes the process a rewarding cycle to engage in. But what if we could prevent problems from occurring in the first place?
Unfortunately, human nature doesn’t let us think that far ahead.
Our brains create resistance to investments of time and energy that don’t solve an acute problem. If we invest effort and resources into something, we expect an immediate result.
We’re very comfortable taking action to receive something in return. We’re not very good at taking action to avoid a potential future result.
Our brains steer us towards immediate gains and away from investments to avoid potential pain.
Despite our natural tendency, we’re better off making small investments to avoid or remove potential pain than solving problems once they materialize.
It sounds simple, but we’re not wired for it. We instinctually address critical issues after they become a problem, not before.
This is why flood insurance sales go through the roof, after a flood. This is why Ozempic is a billion-dollar drug, but 42% of America is already overweight. This is why toxic work cultures don’t change until there’s a whistleblower.
To prevent problems, we need to create systems that force us to invest in simple preventative measures. Preventive measures aren’t sexy, but they’re effective.
Meditating for a few minutes each day can prevent a mental breakdown. 20 minutes of daily exercise can prevent, heart attacks, surgeries, and decades of discomfort. Calling out unsavory comments at work when they first occur can prevent catastrophic consequences.
Taking preventive measures is like leading the team in assists. It goes almost entirely unnoticed and it’s often thankless, but without it, the team would have big problems.
We’re a society built on a mindset that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but maybe it’s time to focus on fixing things so they don’t break instead.
What was the last big problem you had to solve? Was it a result of something you could have prevented?
What area of your life needs immediate preventative care?
What would your life look like if you eliminated the problems that you end up solving most often?
The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen. Wisdom from unconventional problem solvers.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.