The following is a Buddhist story that can help with your problems. If you’re not interested in learning from the Buddha, you have 2 choices:
1) Stop reading. No hard feelings.
2) Hear (read?) me out.
(Adapted from Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen.)
There is a story about a man who went to see the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddha was a great problem solver. Much like you and me, this man had some problems in his life and he hoped the Buddha would solve them.
This man was a farmer.
“I like farming, ” he said, “but sometimes it doesn’t rain enough, my crops fail, and my family lives on the constant brink of starvation. On the other hand, sometimes it rains too much, my crops die, and my family lives on the brink of starvation.
The Buddha listened patiently as the man went on.
“I’m married too,” said the man. “She’s a good wife whom I love, but sometimes she nags me too much and I get tired of her. I also have kids. Good kids mostly, but sometimes they don’t show me enough respect. I feel like my family doesn’t respect me or the land, and just sits around being lazy and uncaring, eating my food and spending my money.”
The man went on telling the Buddha his problems. Finally, he stopped on the brink of tears, and waited for the words that would take care of everything.
The Buddha simply said, “I’m sorry, my friend, but I can’t help you.”
“I don’t understand. Why? What do you mean?” said the man.
“Everybody’s got problems,” said the Buddha. “We’ve all got eighty-three problems, in fact. Eighty-three problems, and there’s nothing you or I can do to change that. If you work really hard on one problem another one will pop up in its place. For example, you’re going to die some day. That’s a big problem, and there’s nothing you, or I, or anyone else can do about it.”
The man was at wit’s end. He’d poured his heart and soul out to the Buddha, expecting to find relief in his wisdom.
“I thought you were a great teacher!” he shouted. “I thought you could help me! What good is your teaching if you can’t help me with my problems?!”
The Buddha said, “To make it up to you I will help you with the eighty-fourth problem.”
Curious and frustrated, the man asked, “What’s the eighty-fourth problem?”
Buddha replied, without an ounce of sarcasm or condescension, “You want to not have any problems.”
I read this story every time I have a problem that starts affecting me emotionally.
Without fail, the anxiety and worry about my problem goes away.
The problem, of course, doesn’t go away on its own. Not until I take a very simple, but important step. The problem doesn’t go away until I take action.
What’s the point in taking action on solving a problem if, as the story says, another problem will take its place?
If you frame it so you enjoy being a problem solver, no problem will truly affect you.
Trying Until You Succeed
Problem solving is the essence of life. You’ve been a problem solver since birth. When you were hungry or needed a clean diaper, you’d cry. Problem solved.
As you got older and you were learning to ride a bike, you most likely fell off. What did you do? You solved that problem by getting back on and trying again.
You tried until you succeeded.
In the paraphrased words of Tony Robbins “trying until you succeed is the magic step.”
What would happen right now if you took your biggest problem and “tried until” you solved it?
How would you feel?
At first it might seem overwhelming and difficult, but don’t you agree that just by moving forward with the problem solving process your problem will grow smaller?
If there’s a solution, you’re going to find it because “trying until” means nothing less. There are no failures, only setbacks.
Reframe Your Problem
If you lose your job, for example, that’s a problem. Give yourself a little bit of time to wallow, and then reframe it. You’ve just been given the freedom to find a new job, start a new business, travel the world, or pursue a lifelong passion.
Do you agree gaining your freedom makes you feel a lot better than losing your job?
Simply reframing alone won’t solve the problem, of course. You probably have bills that need paying and food that needs buying. But reframing your job loss is that first action step that will give you the motivation to follow through until you succeed.
Where To Go From Here
The next time you have a problem that affects you in any way take a minute to think about the Buddha’s Eighty-Fourth Problem. (Better yet, bookmark or print this page and reread the story.)
Can you reframe your problem in a positive action-producing manner?
Would you rather be like the farmer and put the blame on somebody else or would you rather take control, take action, and obliterate your problems?
I’m gonna keep being a problem solver.