Dealing With Problems

by Michael on July 9, 2010 · 0 comments

Try and be a little more creative than that last guy. (Photo by Duchamp)

Problems strike when you least expect them. Today I was beginning my work day when my computer suddenly froze. I restarted, but was greeted with the “where’s the disk?” message. Hmm. Restarting again, I listened for the reassuring click of the hard drive, only to find abject silence.

My hard drive is toast.

While I work on replacing the drive and restoring from my backup, this has given me pause to reflect on how I used to deal with sudden bumps in the road (i.e., not nearly as well), the tools I use today to remain resilient in the face of life’s challenges, and what helps others get by. For the most part I’m talking about everyday bumps and hiccups, but even when real disaster strikes these rules hold true.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

The best way to solve a problem is to prevent it in the first place. Given that you can’t prevent everything, the next best route is to make sure that when a problem arises, it’s a hurdle instead of a disaster.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t prepare for much. Problems would broadside me, whether or not I should have known they were coming. I’d have to take the requisite time to curse my luck, and the world for not understanding my angst. It didn’t help that I was still learning just about every life skill. This no doubt is the cause of much teenage drama.

Fortunately, I’ve learned about risks—which to take and which are just ticking time bombs. Every hard drive on Earth will fail if given enough time. It’s a risk no one should take if they value their data. I’ve kept automated backups of my laptop’s hard drive, so that when it failed I wouldn’t be out more than several hours of time and the cost of a new disk. (I didn’t always do this: several years ago the drive containing my entire music library bit the dust, and it took months to re-rip my entire CD collection.)

Hedge your bets when you can, and when it’s worth it.

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems.

I think we can all agree that MacGyver is a great media example of a resourceful man. He could do more with a wad of gum, a Brillo pad and a toothpick than most of us could with the entire contents of a Fry’s. But I always noticed something else: no matter what life-threatening pickle he was in, he was single-minded in his focus on a solution.

The more time you spend wondering “why me” or blaming someone or something for your problem, the harder you make it on yourself. There’s a time for reflection on what could have been done differently—and that time is after you’ve righted the ship. Focus instead on the steps you’ll take to make things better, and you’ll not only solve the problem faster, you’ll feel better about it.

If a solution isn’t clear, use your favorite method to look for a solution. If you like mind-mapping, do that. For tougher issues, you might find meditation clears your mind. Use the Internet to see what others have done to succeed. Make a plan and execute it.

My plan was simple: get my immediate work done on my backup computer (an old battleship of a Dell), then run to the electronics store and pick up a new drive. I was actually a little excited to get a faster, larger disk, as I’d been reaching the capacity of the old one. Also, being a guy, I’ve got a little bit of a thing for tearing stuff apart and putting it back together again. Now I’ve got a better computer than I had yesterday.

Let It Out, Then Move On

Yes, there are much bigger things that can go wrong than a hard drive failure. My father got a scare not long ago when he developed a perforated ulcer that landed him in intensive care. I had to leave work and drive to his home, a couple of hours away, to care for his animals and then bring him home from the hospital. For the most part I spent my time problem-solving, arranging to work remotely from his place until he was healthy enough for me to return home, and planning meals.

But when life is involved, we can’t help but pause and think about our loved ones’, and our own, mortality. So do it. Scream. Punch a pillow. Vent to a close friend. Go to your favorite peaceful place and meditate. Create some art in tribute. Whatever it takes for you to acknowledge the hurt or anger or the confusion. I leaned on my girlfriend at the time, discussing fears…which turned into hopes, and then into actions.

Something that festers inside helps no one, and can become a bitter cancer in your life, so let it out.

Then move on. Your loved ones need you. You need you.

You Are Not Alone

Everyone runs into hiccups, hurdles, and brick walls. There’s no problem you’ve got that can’t be one-upped by someone else. What many of us consider problems—a hard drive crash, for example—aren’t really problems at all. They’re challenges, allowing us to define our lives by our reactions. Tear them apart and put them back together again. We’re men, that’s what we do.

How about you? Do you have a special way of dealing with life’s bumps and bruises? Have you had an epiphany that changed your life from a never-ending battle to a source of pride or confidence?

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