“You can be either part of the problem or part of the solution”

Eldridge Cleaver
Worldwide Laws of Life

It has been said there are two kinds of people in the world: those who see a problem, define and describe the problem, complain about the problem, and finally become part of the problem; and those who look at a problem and immediately begin to search for a solution. For the person who focuses on the problem, life can seem like an uphill battle. However, if you are among the solution seekers, life can present you with many exciting opportunities for growth. The choice of how you respond to life’s situations is up to you. The result? “You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.

It can be easy to become part of the problem. Anyone focusing on a number of conflicting facts and possible scenarios may perceive a dozen different reasons why something cannot be accomplished. It may require more effort to discipline your mind to work on ways in which the problems can be solved. What might seem to be an insurmountable obstacle for “problem” people can become an opportunity for growth for the solution seekers.

A story is told about two men who were walking along a forest path late one night. It was quite dark, and the men had difficulty in seeing the path. Suddenly, both men fell into a large pit, loosely covered with brush and leaves. Escape seemed impossible without outside help. Lamenting their terrible misfortune, one man sat down, buried his face in his hands, and did nothing. The other man immediately began to search for an escape. While groping in the dark, his hand touched a long tree root hanging from the side of the wall. He quickly pulled himself out of the pit and extended his hand to assist his complaining friend out as well.

The challenges you face may not be as extreme as falling into a pit, but the decisions you make about handling the situations can be crucial in terms of success or failure, now and in the future. You may be given the opportunity to engage in gossip. Perhaps you might join others in complaining about a co‑worker. You may be tempted to disregard a company policy just because everyone else is doing it. In each case, you can be either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Whichever role you choose can have an enormous impact on your future.

Make a conscious effort to be a solution seeker. Remember, it doesn’t take courage, genius, or effort to be a problem person. Becoming a solution seeker helps you feel good about yourself and more confident about your capabilities. It can also evoke feelings of admiration and respect from those around you. They see that you are a person who knows how to get things done. Through your positive, goal‑driven approach, you may even inspire them to greater levels of achievement.

Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru commented, “Crises and deadlocks, when they occur, have at least this advantage: that they force us to think.” And Mao Zedong of China had this to say about solving problems: “You can’t solve a problem? Well, get down and investigate the present facts and the problem’s past history! When you have investigated the problem thoroughly, you will know how to solve it.” The words of these leaders can encourage us to become more observant and aware of the facts in a situation. Time taken to consider these facts can often restrain the urge to jump to incorrect conclusions.

A wise boss helped his colleagues to become problem solvers by keeping on his desk a sign saying, “What do you suggest?” When brainstorming new and better ways to accomplish a goal he encouraged each assistant to begin with the words, “Would it be better if … ?” Do you see how this thought‑provoking attitude can open doors to new possibilities?