What is a problem? One dictionary defines a problem as “a question proposed for a solution.” A problem that occurs in your life, then, may simply be a question that life asks you. It can look like a jigsaw puzzle that has just been taken from its box. There may be a thousand small pieces, each with the potential of joining together to complete a pattern or picture. The pieces mean nothing strewn about unconnected on the table. The fun of the jigsaw puzzle is in finding the relationship between the pieces and fitting them together. You may also find in various life situations that the search and discovery of various pieces of the puzzle can be more enjoyable than the finished image—because the process can be as important as the resolution of the problem the puzzle poses. An old Arabian proverb states, “Everything is small at the beginning and then increases, except trouble, which is great at its beginning and then decreases.”
There are circumstances, however, in which a problem may cause difficulty. For example, solving a challenging engineering problem on a multi‑million dollar building project can be more stressful than balancing your checkbook. There may be deadlines to meet, and you may feel pressure to perform well because your job, your future well‑being, and the safety of many people depend on you. These stresses can make a problem seem like something larger than life and something you aren’t sure you wish to tackle. You may question your ability to meet the challenge set before you. Doubt, uncertainty, and a sense of inadequacy can make a simple problem snowball into something more complex than it is. When an avalanche of negative
emotions threatens, it becomes difficult to experience a ski slope as fun to traverse! A molehill may appear like an entire mountain and an obstacle rather than a challenge to your ability and skill. Because anxiety may occupy a large part of your thinking processes in intense situations, solutions might seem elusive, and your performance may falter.
Save the best for the best by experiencing the best! Your positive outlook can open doors to opportunity that fear might otherwise tightly lock. Your hopeful vision can assert potential in the face of limitation. Your trusting patience can persevere when doubt would have you quit. At his Viennese debut, Pablo Casals, the great Spanish cellist, conductor, and composer, suffered from nervousness. When he reached for his bow to play the first note, he found that his hand was too tense. To loosen it he tried a little twirl, but the bow flew from his fingers and landed in the middle of the orchestra. As it was carefully passed back to him along the rows of musicians, he remembered his mother’s maxim about calmness and steadiness in the pursuit of one’s purpose. By the time the bow was returned to him his hand was steady. The concert was one of his greatest triumphs!
Helen Keller may have had many problems, but she never allowed negative emotions to sink her into a pit of self‑pity. Imagine the optimistic expectation and hope she must have expressed to break out of a dark and silent prison to become self‑expressive. With her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, Helen lectured all over the United States, answering questions from the audience that were communicated to her by Miss Sullivan. A stock question was, “Do you close your eyes when you go to sleep?” Helen Keller’s stock response was, “I never stayed awake to see.” She kept a high, hopeful inner eye on a light that guided her to overcome incredible physical handicaps to design a life more creative than many people with full sight and hearing experience.
Look for the best of what can be possible in every situation, and you have the opportunity to turn any problem into a manifestation of greater good. Give thanks for the Spirit, which is working for you by working through you. Remember the words of the Persian poet Sa’ib of Tabriz: “The march of good fortune has backward slips: to retreat one or two paces gives wings to the jumper.”