Stop Making Problems of Life Situations

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Whether you’re winning or losing, it is important to always be yourself. You can’t change because of the circumstances around you.

~Cotton Fitzsimmons~

Oprah once featured Eckhart Tolle in a series of interviews about his book, The New Earth. I decided to review my copy of his earlier book, The Power of Now, which lays the groundwork for The New Earth. His words interested me since I have spent so many years listening to people’s problems in my work as a psychologist.

He described a problem as “dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibility of taking action now and making it part of your sense of self.” I wish I had thought of problems that way when I was counseling. This reflection keeps popping into my mind every time I hear people complaining about situations in their lives.

Tolle went on to say that there are situations in all of our lives which we would prefer were not present. Sometimes we can do something about them. Rather than dwelling on how bad the situation is, this is the time to do something about it. Get on with it and don’t get stuck making it a problem.

Sometimes there is not much we can do about a situation, at least for now. In that case, the best we can do is accept the situation as it is and move on. Perhaps there will be something we can do about it in the future.

But what happens if we don’t take either approach? I can think of a time when I made my financial insecurity a problem. For quite a while, I did nothing about it. I just worried about it. I worried that I would never be able to retire, that I would be stuck paying off bills for the rest of my life and that I would not have the money to do the things which were important to me.

I could find no acceptable answer on my own. Finally, I got tired of worrying and asked people I thought could help me what I might do about it. Eventually, I learned how to stop worrying and do what I could to change my situation. How I did this is another story which I will tell some other time.

In the quote above, Tolle tells us what will happen if we continue to dwell on the situation and make it a problem. It becomes part of our sense of self. We make it our own and even start defining ourselves as a person with that particular problem. We are stuck regretting our past and worrying about our future. What a waste of our time. All we have is right now. We have the more viable choices of doing something about our situation or accepting it.

Action Steps

  • Do you have situations in your life you think of as problems?
  • How much time to you spend worrying about them?
  • What can you do right now about a problem situation?
  • If you can’t do anything, how about accepting it for the time being?
  • If you insist on worrying, how about setting aside part of each day for worrying?

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon