The Problem With Problem-Solving

What we do shapes the way we think and the way we view the world.

I have worked as a service technician for many years, repairing commercial restaurant equipment from espresso machines to microwave-convection ovens. Once I got the hang of this work, I quickly became very good at it, mainly due to my ability to think logically and systematically about problems.

Over the years, I have developed a keen ability to see a problem and to trace that problem back to its root cause or causes relatively easily, repairing both the cause and the symptom, as well as any other potential problems I discover throughout the process. In short, I have become very good at seeing and thinking about problems. This ability has come at a cost, however.

Humans are not equipped with infinite physical, mental, and emotional resources. Any time we overdevelop some part of our selves, other parts of us must pay a price. By training myself over time to expertly think about, look for, and repair electrical and mechanical problems, I have essentially rewired (pun unintended, but appropriate) my brain to this end. This way of thinking has then carried over into my personal life and relationships.

In other words, whether potential, pre-existing, real, or imagined, I see the world around me as a series of problems that need to be solved. I see things, people, and relationships from the perspective of what is broken or what will break. This outlook, while it has served me well with regards to machinery, is not a healthy way to view the world nor is it a path to happiness and contentment.

Not only is this too much weight for one person to bear, but solving the world’s problems is an impossible task.

Sometimes we all need permission to simply be and to let things be. If we allow ourselves to be still, to be patient, and to be quiet, instead of reactive or even proactive, we may find that our perception was the problem all along.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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