“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings” ~Henry Ward Beecher
I’m a calm person by nature, but like everybody else, there are a few things that get my blood, at the very least, simmering. One of them used to be inconveniences.
Our daily lives are filled with delays, missed opportunities, setbacks, and outright nuisances. It happens to us all.
Missing a bus and being late for work. Being locked out of the house for four hours when you have an urgent exam to prepare for, with all your notes on the other side of the door. Having your new, shiny Blackberry slip out of your pocket on the bus and only realizing half an hour after stepping off.
Yes, these have specifically happened to me. And there’s plenty more where they came from too.
They may not seem like the end of the world, because of course, they aren’t. But at the time, they always feel like a big deal and they always happen at the worst possible time. Right on cue, I suppose.
A few years ago while in my second year at university in my home city, London, I experienced a small inconvenience that made me change my outlook altogether. That academic year, I had taken up a language class, but rather than being at my usual campus in London Bridge, it was at the Strand.
I would take the Underground to my evening Arabic class at the Strand campus every Thursday. I took the same route from London Bridge every week. And on my journey home, I would go via the renowned Victoria train station every week at exactly the same time.
On one particular occasion, I was, for a reason I can’t remember now, in a very foul mood (probably another inconvenience). I missed my day of lectures due to an underestimated morning errand run and was now also running late for my evening class.
I then inconveniently missed three consecutive buses due to a sea of blue-uniform-wearing school kids swarming every bus on my route.
And of course, to fit the London picture perfectly, I was getting heavily rained on, as I had inconveniently left my umbrella at home and didn’t have the time or energy to run back and get it. I was going to miss my lesson no matter what I did at this point.
Naturally, I was angry, frustrated that the one thing that could have taken my mind off of my mood was now also gone. Furious, I decided to accept defeat.
The following day, I read in the paper that in exactly the spot in Victoria station at exactly the time I would have been making my way back home from the lesson there was a tragic murder.
Had I gone to my lesson, I would have been caught up in a horrendous tragedy. I could have been hurt physically or at the very least witnessed something so horrific it would have left me traumatized for life. I was then more than grateful for only being in a bad mood and missing my class.
There are several similar situations I’ve come to learn of, some of much greater scale than my story. I heard of a woman making her way to work, almost reaching the office, when her heel snapped and she had to return home to change her shoes. She was unsurprisingly frustrated for being late for work.
But at her stop-over at home, she had dodged being crushed under rubble in the falling Twin Towers on 9/11. She may have been aggravated earlier, and she was likely devastated for the lives lost, but she was later grateful hers wasn’t one of them.
I’ve heard another story of a woman who inconveniently had to leave work to pick up her sick child from school. Frustrated, she left work, drove to the school, and brought her child home.
When she realized this inconvenience saved her child from the shooting at her Connecticut school, she felt fortunate for the disruption.
It is, of course, tragic that anyone has to experience this type of suffering and loss, but it’s also tragic that we don’t always recognize just how fortunate we are.
These things happen every day; we just don’t know about it.
We’ll miss a bus and be late for work. We’ll get sick and miss a life-changing job interview. But we have no idea what hardship or calamity we’ve just dodged.
Nonetheless, we experience blessings in disguise in small ways every day.
We might have just missed an event that could have cost us our wealth, our health, or even our lives. We just don’t know it. And majority of the time, we never will.
Let’s open our minds to this new perspective to change how we internalize disappointments and annoyances. While my story may stem from trivial inconveniences, we can also apply this attitude to more serious problems and adversities in our lives.
Here’s my two-cents.
1. Appreciate that it could have been worse.
However bad a circumstance seems and feels, it could always be worse. It may seem unnatural and perhaps silly to think of hypothetical situations when you have a real problem at hand; but thinking of all the ways the situation could have been worse makes it so much easier to accept and deal with it.
2. Trust that everything happens for a reason.
Whether good or bad, there’s a reason behind everything. In the words of Marilyn Monroe, “People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies to you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
3. Have faith in blessings in disguise.
It may have saved you from something worse, or brought you closer to something better. Even if neither of these are true, then they at the very least, it made you a stronger person and taught you something. And that is always a good thing.
4. Share your experience with the people around you.
If you do happen to find out how a particular problem gifted you with a blessing, share it with everyone you know so they can benefit too. The more we openly recognize how we’re fortunate, the happier and more content we will be.
Let’s change how we think about inconveniences, missed opportunities, and problems, because oftentimes, it is for the best; we might just not know it.
Photo by jk+too
Take a look at a select set of thought provoking and inspirational problems and problem solving quotes related to decision making.
"The one common experience of all humanity is the challenge of problems." - R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), American Architect, Author, Designer, Inventor, and Futurist
"Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Laureate
"The biggest problem in the world could have been solved when it was small." - Witter Bynner (1881 - 1968), American Poet and Author
"There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong." - H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), American Journalist, Essayist, and Editor
"If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." - Shimon Peres (1923 - ), 9th President of the State of Israel
"Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds." - Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993), American Author
"Ideas may also grow out of the problem itself, which in turn becomes part of the solution." - Paul Rand (1914 - 1996), American Graphic Designer
"Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity." - Joseph Sugarman, American Author
"A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved." - Dorothea Brande (1893 - 1948), American Writer and Editor
"Problems are only opportunities in work clothes." - Henry J. Kaiser (1882 - 1967), American Industrialist, Father of Modern American Shipbuilding
"For every complex problem there is a solution that is concise, clear, simple, and wrong." - H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), American Journalist, Essayist, and Editor
"Never bring the problem solving stage into the decision making stage. Otherwise, you surrender yourself to the problem rather than the solution." - Robert H. Schuller (1926 - ), 1926), American Minister and Author
"The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Laureate
"If you procrastinate when faced with a big difficult problem... break the problem into parts, and handle one part at a time." - Robert Collier (1885 - 1950), American Author of Self Help Books
"I am enthusiastic over humanity's extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat may come along and make a fortuitous life preserver. This is not to say, though, that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem." - R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), American Architect, Author, Designer, Inventor, and Futurist
"When you can't solve the problem, manage it." - Robert H. Schuller (1926 - ), 1926), American Minister and Author
"No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking." - Voltaire (1694 - 1778), French Writer, Essayist, and Philosopher
"The only difference between a problem and a solution is that people understand the solution." - Dorothea Brande (1893 - 1948), American Writer and Editor
"Avoiding a problem doesn't solve it." - Bonnie Jean Thornley
"Science is always wrong, it never solves a problem without creating ten more." - George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), Irish Playwright
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Laureate
"When a problem comes along, study it until you are completely knowledgeable. Then find that weak spot, break the problem apart, and the rest will be easy." - Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993), American Author
"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." - B. F. Skinner (1904 - 1990), American Psychologist, Author, and Inventor
"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced." - Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), Danish Philosopher and Theologian
"Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together." - Robert Redford (1936 - ), American Film Director and Actor
"We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." - Lee Iacocca (1924 - ),American businessman, President and CEO of Chrysler Corporation from 1978 to 1992
"The man who has no more problems to solve, is out of the game." - Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915), American Writer and Philosopher
"The human brain must continue to frame the problems for the electronic machine to solve." - David Sarnoff (1891 - 1971), Russian-American Businessman and Founder of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
"The how thinker gets problems solved effectively because he wastes no time with futile ifs." - Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993), American Author
"Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them." - Henry Ford (1863 - 1947), American Industrialist and Founder of the Ford Motor Company
"You are either part of the solution or part of the problem." - Eldridge Cleaver (1935 - 1998), American Author
"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." - R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), American Architect, Author, Designer, Inventor, and Futurist
"Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem." - Brian Aldiss (1925 - ), English Author
"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything." - George Lois (1931 - ), American Art Director and Author
"Welcome every problem as an opportunity. Each moment is the great challenge, the best thing that ever happened to you . The more difficult the problem, the greater the challenge in working it out." - Grace Speare, Author
"There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see, yet small enough to solve." - Michael O. Leavitt (1951 - ), American Politician
"Think as you work, for in the final analysis, your worth to your company comes not only in solving problems, but also in anticipating them." - Harold Wallace Ross (1892 - 1951), American Journalist and Founder of The New Yorker Magazine
"To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?" - Jim Rohn (1930 - ), American Entrepreneur, Author, and Motivational Speaker
"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were." - John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963), 35th President of the United States
"We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve." - Maxwell Maltz (1899 - 1975), American Cosmetic Surgeon and Author
"No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking." - J. P. Morgan (1837 - 1913), American Financier and Banker
"Rather than denying problems, focus inventively, intentionally on what solutions might look or feel like. Our mind is meant to generate ideas that help us escape circumstantial traps -- if we trust it to do so. Naturally, not all hunches are useful. But then you only need a single good idea to solve a problem." - Marsha Sinetar, Educator and Author
"Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem." - Henry Kissinger (1923 - ), German-born American Political Scientist, Diplomat, and Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
"It doesn't matter how strong your opinions are. If you don't use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem." - Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006), American Author, Activist, and Civil Rights Leader
"Solve it. Solve it quickly, solve it right or wrong. If you solve it wrong, it will come back and slap you in the face, and then you can solve it right. Lying dead in the water and doing nothing is a comfortable alternative because it is without risk, but it is an absolutely fatal way to manage a business." - Thomas J. Watson (1874 - 1956), Industrialist, Former President of IBM
"If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems." - Edward Hodnett (1871 - 1962), British Poet
"We only think when we are confronted with problems." - John Dewey (1859 - 1952), American Philosopher and Psychologist
"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." - Theodore I. Rubin (1923 - ), American Psychiatrist and Author
"Understand that most problems are a good sign. Problems indicate that progress is being made, wheels are turning, you are moving toward your goals. Beware when you have no problems. Then you've really got a problem. Problems are like landmarks of progress." - Scott Alexander (1976 - ), British Millionaire and Socialite
"Any solution to a problem changes the problem." - R. W. Johnson (1943 - ), South African Journalist and Historian
"A positive attitude will not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." - Herm Albright
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