Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Shift to Solution-oriented Thinking

Everyone bitches and moans. I think it's human nature to have those days when all you want to do is whine. After all, it's easy, it makes you feel vindicated and maybe even a little self-righteous, which can be helpful when morale is really sagging. Sometimes, it makes you and your fellow sufferers laugh. Some of my favorite turns of phrase have come out of bitching sessions.

Ah, but it can be addictive. I know first hand how addictive it can be, and I've seen many of my friends and colleagues succumb to the easy pleasure of moaning about the incompetency! the cluelessness! the suckitude! of the workplace or situation.

While it takes almost no effort to bitch, it is not a harmless activity. A subtle mental shift occurs with a lot of bitching, and it gets worse the more of it you do. A feeling of victimization colonizes your mind, and you begin to see yourself as a helpless pawn in a situation out of your control. If only those people weren't so stupid! If only the boss could see your genius for what it is! If only, if only, if only.

The will, and indeed, the urgency, to act is slowly but surely extinguished, and one day you wake up and your life and opportunities have passed you by.

It can be difficult to pinpoint why people change courses after being so long on one path, but in the last year, I awoke to the fact that I controlled my fate, and that I could act. Bitching and moaning was not the only way to deal with a difficult situation. I could actually extricate myself from it!

You can do this too, and all it requires is a little attention on your part. I began to tire of hearing myself say the same things over and over again; the same words, the same phrases, the same pattern of thoughts. Here's what you need to do to break the pattern:
  1. Identify the words, phrases and thoughts of your bitch-sessions. Make note of them. Write them down or just promise to remember them. See them as triggers for zooming out and examining your thoughts.
  2. When you notice yourself in this pattern, analyze what you're saying. If you hear yourself saying that so-and-so is a clueless idiot, think of why you're wasting energy repeating something that you already know and that won't change. If so-and-so is truly a clueless idiot, no amount of your whining is ever going to change that.
  3. When you realize that what you're saying is of no use, ask yourself what you can change. In the clueless idiot example above, you can't do anything about the idiot, but you can change how you deal with it, and in several ways, too. You can either accept that the idiot will always be an idiot, therefore not wasting time thinking about it, or you can change your relationship to the idiot. You can either resolve not to invest in anything the idiot says, or you can remove yourself from said idiot by removing yourself from the situation, i.e. getting a new boyfriend or changing jobs, or the like.
  4. When you identify what you can change, do it! Figuring out that you need a new job or boyfriend does you no good unless you actually put your realizations into action. How do you do this? Start by identifying your resources.
The minute you raise your awareness and start devising solutions to the problems you're simply bitching about is the minute you empower yourself to act and develop a better life, whatever it is that you may need to achieve it.

The fact that the human mind is capable of inventing things has always fascinated me. That we are able to create that which did not exist before is a powerful ability and one to be in awe of. Recognize that you have the power of invention within you--it's not just for light bulbs and plastics--but can be used to help you find a new path that will help you overcome the obstacle currently facing you.

As the new year approaches, resolve to solve.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only do I agree that shifting to solution-oriented thinking will help you out of a bad situation, I also think it does the important work of weeding out potential scape-goats. It is easy to identify a job or a marriage or someone else's incompetence as being the problem - indeed, hating a job or being annoyed with your spouse is iconic in American culture. Listening to your words and forcing yourself to pin down the exact nature of the problem will prevent you from being blind-sided by a convenient target. As someone who has pinned the tail on the wrong donkey more than once, I can see the value of this methodological approach.