I picked up an article about Jennifer Aniston a while back. The article was entitled, something along the lines of, “What is Jennifer Aniston Good At?” I must have had some time on my hands so I started reading. I expected to read something about her being a good friend (I’ll be there for you). Or maybe a good cook? A good listener perhaps? Yoga?
What she said was unexpected … and unexpectedly meaningful to me. The thing that Jennifer Aniston, at least in this particular interview, said she was really good at was PROBLEM SOLVING. Yes, problem solving. She said she was a great problem solver and approached each problem or challenge with the confidence that she could use her resources to work through it. She tried not to get rattled and worked through problems step by step.
The cynical part of me initially thought, “Well, if I had all the money and all the connections in the world, I’d be good at problem solving too.” But after thinking about it, I realized that resources don’t just mean how much money we can throw at a problem or who we know that can assist us (although those things certainly help). Resources are the many tools we use to approach and solve problems. Those tools include not only outside help, but encompass how we internally perceive challenge and stress, whether we trust in our ability to prevail, our ability to create or devise a plan, and then finally whether we can persevere and follow through.
I thought to myself, “Gosh, I wish I could say that about myself.” I wish I was someone who looked at every problem that came my way with a confidence and assuredness that I have what it takes to get to the other side. On a good day, I tackle problems head on, but many times, I have to admit that I see problems that pop up as overwhelming, too much, a mountain to climb. I envy folks who look at problems with an optimistic and resilient outlook – the outlook that he/she already has all the resources needed to prevail or that if challenges are taken one step at a time (or one day at a time) he/she will figure it out. My higher self knows that I can withstand and overcome stressful times, yet my day-to-day self sometimes gets lost in the overwhelm.
I have talked to students and patients about this article, and at first we chuckle because the example comes from an unlikely source. But when we really delve into a discussion about it, we realize what a significant and meaningful skill problem solving is … an invaluable skill to develop and depend on. In times of struggle or seemingly insurmountable challenge, wouldn’t it be helpful to approach the challenge with composure, trust, confidence and an inner-knowing that we can figure it out? This mindset is one that fosters and nurtures resilience … as well as a willingness and openness to accept challenge as a part of life.
What makes a good problem solver?
- The ability to devise a plan and execute it?
- The ability to call upon the people in our lives that can help or aid in some way.?
- The way we approach or perceive a problem?
- Our ability to calm ourselves, focus and follow through?
- Our outlook regarding problems and challenges in general?
- Our belief in or trust in ourselves to succeed or prevail?
- Our coping skills, self-soothing skills, resilience?
- Our willingness to fail, stumble and get back up?
I don’t remember where I read this article, whether it was online or in a magazine, or when I had the time read it. But I recall the article every so often when I’m confronted with a problem. How I approach a problem is so significant. It will dictate my stress level, my feeling about myself, my mood, my ability to be present with my family and friends, and my health. If I see something as insurmountable, I exhaust myself at just the thought of it. If I see something as simply a problem to solve and know and trust that I have the tools within me (or certainly within my reach), I am engaged and confident in moving forward.
I admit that I aspire to be like Jennifer Aniston. One of my life goals is to someday say … I’m a good problem solver.
The Mommy Tune-up is a blog devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!