February 13, 2020 by Dymphna

How I learned to love my problems

Here’s a new way to measure the quality of your life…

We love problems. We live for them.

We often talk about problems like, well, problems. Like bad things. Like troubles that are a pain in the neck.

But if you think about it for a sec, you realise that humans love problems. If you’re reading this on public transport right now, look around and try to guess how many people are playing Sudoku, or Solitaire or Candy Crush Saga or whatever. How many people right now are working on ‘entertaining problems’, just for fun?

We’re hard wired for it. We’re Homo-Problemsolveris. It’s like the author Robert A. Wilson says, “We should feel excited about the problems we confront and our ability to deal with them. Solving problems is one of the highest and most sensual of all our brain functions.”

Yep. I get that. When you’re wrestling with a juicy problem, it’s a sensual act – all of your senses are involved, and when you crack it, it’s incredibly satisfying.


But there’s a few interesting things that come out of thinking about ourselves this way – as problem solvers by nature and by design.

The first is that the ‘good’ life is not about whether you have problems or not. It’s whether you spend your days nutting away at juicy problems that excite and stimulate you, or whether you spend your days grinding away at tedious problems that just don’t matter.

That is, we can measure the quality of our life by the quality of the problems we face.

And if we want to have a more satisfying and exciting life, maybe what we should be seeking out is more satisfying and exciting problems.

I mean, I look at my life now, and I love most of the problems I’m dealing with. How do I make this deal stack up? How can I redesign the farm to make it work as a function centre? What is our itinerary for out next overseas trip?

These things are ‘problems’, but I enjoy thinking about them. I enjoy trying to figure them out.

And I know we all dream about a “worry-free life” – sitting on a deck chair in the Bahamas and just watching the waves roll in and out.

But I’ve done that. I was bored after 15 minutes. You would be too. It’s great for a while, but in a few hours or a few days, you’d be bored.

And I actually wonder if ultimately it’s actually a dangerous state to be in.

If you don’t have any problems to work on, that part of your mind starts to get bored.

If you’re not watching it carefully, it might start fixating on whatever problems it can find – minor things – just to have something to work on.

“This hotel really uses just a little too much starch on their pool towels. I wonder who I should speak to about that…”

I actually think it’s might be a good life discipline to cultivate – keeping your life full of juicy and satisfying problems – as a way of maintaining your zest for life and stopping yourself stressing out about things that just don’t matter.

So do a quick stock-take of your life right now. Is your life full of juicy and satisfying problems? Or are they more of the tedious and pointless kind?

How do you feel about that?