Transforming a Problem into an Advantage

Girl in despair

Sometimes problems or difficulties can seem overwhelming. In the face of some huge and negative disruption to your life trying to adopt the view that for every problem encountered there is a solution of some sort or other waiting to be discovered can seem futile and irrelevant. For many the seemingly instinctive tendency is to focus purely on the problem itself, and not on potential solutions.

This tendency almost forces the imagination into negative overdrive, whereby all of the problem’s possible implications and consequences come into stark relief. This has the effect of crowding out everything else from your mental landscape and making the problem or apparent threat seem huge and insurmountable. Worry, frustration or despair – or a combination of all three – soon follows and the solution itself remains as unrealized and as far out of reach as ever.

There are of course many people who deal positively with difficult situations and who in many cases come through better, smarter and stronger than they were before, but there are also many other people who don’t react well to serious adversity and who suffer as a result.

Some years ago a friend of mine found himself undergoing a series of personal calamities and upsets that, at his lowest point, led him to almost total despair. At that point, his mind was full of nothing but problems and so the concept of a solution or the idea that he might actually somehow end up gaining from his situation could only seem like an impossible and irrelevant fantasy.

He’d come from a partly disadvantaged background and had had a very mediocre quality education. When I met him he was holding down the latest of several admin or data processing type jobs that he’d had.

The first in a series of life’s metaphorical blows came to him by way of his long term girlfriend’s decision to leave him to start a relationship with someone else. Emotionally distraught, it was not long after this that he was downsized from his corporate cubicle and found himself unemployed and claiming welfare benefits.

Then it emerged that an overseas property deal he’d invested much of his modest savings into was fraudulent and that he and dozens of others had lost their money. He was now alone and hurt at the loss of his girlfriend, had seen a large part of his savings vanish, and was having no success in finding another job.

He was beginning to become accustomed to feelings of depression and despair as being the norm, but the blows hadn’t as yet stopped coming.

He’d begun having worsening pain and discomfort in various joints throughout his body, and soon found his physical mobility drastically reduced. A medical examination appeared to indicate the onset of some kind of arthritis, and blood tests soon confirmed that he now in fact had rheumatoid arthritis.

He was devastated, feeling that his world had now all but totally collapsed around him in the space of a few months, and it was then – as he later told me – that he felt that he’d lost the desire and the ability to go on with life.

Your Problems Are Never Bigger Than You Are

He was prescribed medications and fairly soon his condition stopped deteriorating, though he was of course still physically incapacitated. However I couldn’t help noticing that despite everything that had happened his mental state was not quite as negative as it had been a couple of months previously at the time of the diagnosis.

It transpired that this was because while his physical freedom had been curtailed, he’d come to realize that now he had the time and freedom to mentally immerse himself in things that were of genuine interest to him.

I could see that here was a glimmer of hope, perhaps the planting of a mental seed of recovery, growth and possible future fulfilment. I’d for a long time had a deep and abiding interest in areas such as hypnosis, psychology and the power and potential of the human mind, and I referred him to an account of a series of medical and psychological tests which had involved the voluntary participation of a group of patients who were receiving the same medication for the same ailment.

The psychological side of the tests was used to determine which patients had a generally negative and pessimistic view of life and which had a generally positive outlook.

The result of the medical tests then demonstrated clearly that the positive minded patients had – while using similar dosages of the same medicine for the same ailment – derived much more benefit from the medication and had recovered much more quickly and fully than the negative minded patients had.

I could see that my friend was intrigued by this, and even a little excited too, as the power and  possibilities of his own mind began to dawn on him.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I lent him some books on psychology, hypnosis and the power of the subconscious mind, which he proceeded to avidly immerse himself in. Soon after, he told me that he was placing himself under a daily programme of improved diet, light exercise, relaxation sessions and twice daily visualization sessions in which he’d mentally picture and emotionally feel himself as being fit, healthy and active in a normal way.

The next time I saw him, which I think was a few months or so after that, I was genuinely taken aback by the overall improvement in his condition, both physical and mental. He was still more or less broke, out of work and taking medication, but his physical improvement had within a few months gone beyond anything that could have been reasonably – or “logically” – expected from the medication, and as far as his mental attitude was concerned he was, while being fully aware of his financial and career predicament, genuinely and positively excited about the numerous possibilities for his future that he could now see all around him.

He’d become enthusiastic about IT and the Internet in general and, after neglecting it for many months now, had begun experimenting with his computer again. Contact with another like-minded person had been established, and together they decided to create and then monetize a website based on a subject of mutual interest.

At that time high search engine rankings could be achieved more quickly than now, and soon, after a few technical issues had been dealt with, the website was going from strength to strength. Suffice to say that the next time I met him he looked as if he’d hardly had a day of depression or illness in his life. Through the website and various other ventures that he’d subsequently taken on he was now independently making a good and creatively fulfilling living, and had met “the most beautiful girl in the world” who he was now living with in something approaching mutual bliss.

His medication had been by then reduced considerably and he regarded himself as having recovered much, perhaps most, of his previous physical capacity. Although he knew that he had needed the medication originally, he put his amazing physical and mental recovery largely down to the discovery of how to tap into and use the power of his own mind, the power to transform problems into advantages. Without the “problems”, he’d never have discovered who he really was and what he was really capable of.

There are undoubtedly many people who have undergone more severe and destructive trials and tribulations than those experienced by my friend, but the basic premise remains the same. There is nothing to be gained by allowing yourself to believe that a problem is bigger than you are, that it can’t be solved or overcome. There is always a way forward, sometimes on to bigger and better things than before, if you will only look for it.

Photo credit: Vladimir Fedotov
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4 thoughts on “Transforming a Problem into an Advantage

  1. Thanks Kenneth for writing such a detailed and awesome post. I’m sure it will be a great inspiration for our readers.

  2. I have definately seen the value of finding the opportunities in the issues i’m having. Sure initially I am triggered and am like “arrgh dammit”. But I am learning to catch myself faster and turn it around. The more I do this the quicker I am able to just go ‘okay’ and continue on my path.

    Wallowing in it unfortunately doesn’t help as tempting as it can be.

    -Ben

  3. Hi Ben,
    “Wallowing” as you say can be kind of tempting but the more your mental positivity muscle gets used the easier it becomes to see through that and beyond to the benefits of having a positive perception of even the most difficult situations.

  4. Great article. I have severe acne problem. I feel frustrated and embarrassed most of the time and I have few friends. Your article has inspired and motivated me. Many thanks.

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