This morning while I was getting ready for work a couple thoughts came into my head which are somewhat related, I’ll talk about the health part 2nd. When I was a kid I LOVED problem solving. We used to do logic problems at school where you had to use logic to figure out the problem and I couldn’t get enough of them, they were supposed to be homework, but I would do extra ones for fun.
Any kind of puzzle books like sudoku or crosswords or word searches, I liked them all. I also enjoyed doing science and math problems, I thought they were fun. Another area where my problem solving has always been beneficial is when traveling. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit from a young age, and a side effect of that has been feeling very confident while traveling. Things often don’t go according to plan when traveling, you sometimes have to have go to plan b, or c, or even d. While traveling though, I move through those transitions smoothly.
One example, when I was a Jr. in High School, my Spanish class went on a trip to Spain, about 30 of us with 3 teachers. The teachers were guiding us in the airport in Amsterdam during a layover, and they got confused. I just stepped up and lead the group through the airport, I figured it out no problem. Even though I hadn’t ever been to Amsterdam and the teachers had been several times.
When Problems Stopped Being Fun
However, at some point problems started to stress me out instead of being fun to solve. When? When there started to be big, real life consequences to the choices I made. For example, if something didn’t go according to plan in chiropractic school, and it could hurt my grade or if I wanted to do something, I.e. go to animal chiropractic school while in chiropractic school and someone would tell me I couldn’t, even though I knew I could handle it. As a result, and because I did a lot of schooling in a short period of time, I started to plan things out in extreme detail. Everything had to go according to plan, and if something didn’t go as planned, I would get stressed out and anxious.
How My Thinking Changed
I then started to think, when I just reach a certain stage (that is a goal or plan), everything will work out, and I’ll be happy and content. For example, it would be something like, when I graduate from chiropractic school, and have a awesome job and have a great boyfriend, then I can relax and I’ll be content. But then I would get some of those things, and immediately my list would change. For example, now the goal could be: when my business is thriving, and I start saving money/investing, and when I get better at keeping my condo clean all the time and I’m productive every day, then I’ll be happy. I’ve noticed this list is in a constant state of evolution, so you can never seem to hit the target before it moves further away.
How This Relates to My Health
Another area of my life where this thinking showed up is my health. I have had some health issues, just like everyone. When high school started, I started to have problems with nausea and vomiting, I got upset stomachs a lot and couldn’t figure out why. I also had some random things like my legs would get itchy and sometimes would get small red patches.
For my health I started to think things like “Ok, when I get rid of this nausea and vomiting, then I’ll be super healthy forever.” Then I would figure out how to help the nausea/vomiting and something else would pop up. I got a couple head injuries and a traumatic brain injury. So I’d think, “As soon as I heal from this head injury, then I’ll be healthy and everything will be good.” Then I had a bad dentist for a couple years, and he missed a cavity and it ended up getting so big I had to get a cap put on. And again the thinking “As soon as my teeth get healthy, everything will be good and I won’t have to worry about my health anymore.”
When Waiting for Perfection Wasn't Working...
Well, as you can guess, this system wasn’t working for me very well. As I’m sure you know, in life there is always something that pops up. You solve one problem and another shows up. They say that life begins outside your comfort zone, which I now understand applies in more way than one. It is true for things like going on a 10 mile hiking trip with a backpack and sleeping in a tent backcountry at 20 degrees. But it ALSO applies for things like solving a problem you never knew you could solve at work like your computer deleting ALL of your apps so that you lose all of your data. Which happened just a couple months ago, huge thanks to my boyfriend Scott for being a MAJOR help for that and for keeping me calm when I wanted to freak out.
So what’s the solution? How can we more enjoy the problem-solving process as adults, when there are real consequences for our actions?
Here’s what I’ve come up with recently. I first had the realization with my health, I realized there would always be something to work on and beyond that, always a way I could improve my health and go to the next level, even if everything was working well. With that knowledge, how can I think about my health in a ways that is intriguing instead of frustrating? I decided to think of it like a PUZZLE. I really enjoy working on puzzles, I like the process and the end result of making something. I’ve found whenever I complete a puzzle, I am ready to do another new puzzle, it’s not that I finish one and think, “Ok I’ve done a puzzle, I don’t ever want to do another one.” So that’s how I’ve started thinking about my health and it’s a game changer.
A New Perspective
Now I approach my health with curiosity. Back to the child like mentality that enjoys problem solving, and for an adult topic, Yay! Now I think about my health in some of the following ways, “If I try adding this new thing, (i.e. kickboxing) will that improve my health? “What can I eat that will give me the most energy?” “What supplements could take me to the next level?” “How can I get stronger?” “How can I push myself more?” And when a health issue comes up, i.e. SUPER sore muscles after hiking the grand canyon, I think “Interesting, I wonder how many days it will take to go back to normal,” and “How could I speed up the process?”
I am working on looking at life in the same way, I’ve found this one takes more practice so far. There are still things that really stress me out when they pop up at work or in other areas. However, I’ve found I’m becoming more flexible, allowing myself to laugh at my mistakes, to let things go quicker, and to approach problem solving in life with a more curious heart. I am finding that treating life like a puzzle has been helping me out too.
So for you, maybe you like the idea of a puzzle, or maybe there’s something you like more, that is a better mental metaphor for you. Maybe your health and life is like a book, or a movie, or an adventure, or a journey. For me, puzzle seems to be the best fit, I think because it implies that there is always something to figure out to get to the next stage. Just knowing that there will always be problems, but that pretty much any problem can be solved, has helped me to let go of wanting perfection.
Comment and tell me if you like the idea of a puzzle, or what do you think would work for you?