Do you like having the problem?
I had an old boyfriend many years ago who shall remain nameless. He had a very well-paying job. Great perks. Amazing money. But he wasn’t happy. I came to dread asking “How was your day, honey?” because there was never a good day. His boss upset him by critiquing a report with suggestions for improvement. Or his boss upset him by not critiquing a report and therefore ignoring him. His secretary was too chatty and kept disturbing him. Or the office was too quiet and not buzzy enough to keep him motivated. He didn’t have enough challenging work to do. He was bored. Or he was under too much pressure to deal with the challenges of a particular project. It was exhausting to listen to.
This chap who we will call, er, Sebastian, was “so frustrated” at the inability of his boss and his job to make him happy. I tied myself in knots suggesting various different approaches and things he could put in place to improve his situation. “You could try meeting with your boss about workflow. You could detail in your emails how you would like feedback and by when. You could put earphones in when you want to work quietly (they magically repel people disturbing you — try it). If it’s not what you want to do let’s look at different career options for you.”
On and on and on I went, trying to help, you can only imagine! Hours and hours we would discuss different strategies for improving this terrible perk-filled highly paid good-hours job.
Much time went by and I realised that nothing, apart from the incessant discussing, had changed. I couldn’t understand it. Why, when there were so many options and choices, would you continue to put up with something that was clearly so misery making?
Then it finally dawned on me. He didn’t want to solve the problem. I know, that should have been obvious, but I missed it. He clearly didn’t actually want to solve the problem … he liked talking about it too much. He got so much attention from talking about it that was much better than actually changing it.
Does someone you know actually like having the problem that makes them miserable? Or, be honest now, is the Problem-Liker actually you? Continually discussing our problems and lovingly stroking them like a new luxury handbag has the unexpected upside of getting us attention, sympathy and much else. I have to confess after an epic break up I did a fair bit of Problem-Liking myself, it felt very comforting to keep trotting out my “poor me” story.
However, if we are truly committed to living our best, most connected, happiest, fulfilled life then Liking The Problem is not a strategy that will work in the medium to long term. If you want to feel different — and by that I mean happier, calmer and more empowered — then you need to think differently and be prepared to do some things differently. In short, you need action.
Yes, it might be a bit scary to make a little change and test the edges of the comfort zone, but really if you genuinely don’t like having the problem then that really is the choice you need to make. You need to stop talking and start doing. If you, deep down, actually like having the problem, however, that’s totally fine too. Again, it’s your choice. But remember that other people don’t necessarily like hearing about it continually!
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and read more from Louise here.