Why problems are good for you
No problems, no possibilities
Problems are good. Problems make life worth living. If everything is fine we would have nothing to do and the boredom would be unimaginable.
We can’t or shouldn’t hope for a problem-free existence. What we should work towards is increasing the quality of problems we have to deal with. Getting to work on better problems means that we are growing. Working on the same problems over and over means we are stuck.
Understanding problems at this deeper level can cure us of the naive hope that one day we can be free of all problems. Problems, per se, are not the problem, the type of problem is the problem.
Problems are the best thing that can happen to you. They represent opportunity and challenge. They are the seeds of invention and progress. Problems are a complete package: they test your physical, mental and emotional strength. Problems are a measure of how attuned you are to the environment around you. They are a signal that something needs fixing.
Some people have a rare medical condition where they don’t feel any pain. They can put their hand on a hot stove, but they won’t feel anything as the their skin begins to roast. This might seem like a superpower but it’s more like a curse, because pain is a signal to act. If you don’t feel pain when you’re physically hurt, you might carry on as usual, leading to even more serious consequences.
A problem-free existence is exactly like that. It looks like utopia, but it’s more like a mirage. The world is too big, messy and complicated to not have things that bother you. It is not good to be paranoid all the time, but if you don’t have any problems, you’re probably not paying enough attention.
Problems allow us to bring our potential outside of ourselves. Just think about what some of your most enjoyable experiences have been. Enjoyable, not in terms of pleasure but in terms of fulfilment. More likely than not, they come when you were deeply engaged in something that requires you to concentrate hard and stretch your abilities. While engaged in such an experience, there’s only you and the task at hand. The rest of the world melts away.
This experience is called flow and is one of things that make life worth living. At the heart of a flow experience is a problem that must be solved. In a way, solving problems is literally a fulfillment-delivery mechanism.
Not all problems are equal, obviously. Life will throw some heavy stuff at us, and we will have no choice but to bear that load. But it is precisely such challenges that give us perspective on which situations deserve the label of a problem. Is your delayed promotion really that big of an issue when you have a sick child?
Nature has endowed us with brainpower unlike that in any other organism. For this gift to not turn on itself, it needs to express itself. Problems give it an outlet to do so. Simply put, problems are the clay with which we shape our world.