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Are you faced with a seemingly impossible situation or dilemma? Do all the solutions seem inadequate to you? Here’s something to think about!

An Interesting Problem

Pretend for a moment that you are a kid playing in a sandbox with some other kids. You are all running around, laughing, having fun! Yay!

They’re all a lot of fun, except for this one kid in the corner who is pouting all the time. He’s mean :-( So for the most part, you stay away from him and let him beat other kids up. So far so good!

One day, some adults came over and gave everyone some toys to play with. In glee, you run over to your little model train and start playing with it. Whoosh, whoosh, clank, clank. Heeheeheehee!! Lots of fun!

All of a sudden, yoink! The big bully steals your model train and starts playing with it!! How dare he? You got it first! You run after him demanding him to give it back, but he just keeps running away and ignoring you!

Some Solutions To the Problem

In anger, you consider your options… What can you do to get that model train back?

Option 1: You can just let the bully have the model train. Maybe getting that train back isn’t that important after all. There are other things to play with!

That would be soooo unfair though! It was your model train first so you should get to play with it! Besides, it would set a bad precedent for the future and show him that he can bully you around! You’ll lose even more model trains in the future! You certainly can’t have that!

Option 2: You can try to take it back from him. Yeah… that’d get you your train back and teach him a lesson! Happy at your idea, you assess your chances. The first thing you notice is his bulging muscles. You then look at your weenie arm and conclude that your chances aren’t quite as good as you’d first thought! You’d probably end up on the ground with a black eye and not get to play with your model train! Still… might be worth it just to get a few punches in!

Option 3: Scream and yell at him, which you really feel like doing right now. Doesn’t seem like that’d get your train back though! Still an option to consider… you know you’d feel better!

Option 4: Tell the adults about it and “tell” on him! Yeah! That’d work! Hmmm… none of them seem to be around though!

Option 5: Talk to him and try to reason with him. Maybe that’d work if he was listening, but messages don’t appear to be actually reaching his brain at the moment. He practically never talks and just sits in his corner sulking anyway! Better not try… you’ll probably just end up getting your butt kicked!

Uh oh, you seem to be out of options! Hmmmm, all of them seem to have some sort of problem, with you not getting your train and feeling angry or even worse, ending up on the floor bleeding. Now, if there was just some way to solve the problem!

The Other Solution That You Can’t See

In school, they teach you that you have to do well in class. They tell you that getting an A is good, and getting an F is bad. After a decade or two of this, you get used to the idea of having to solve the problems they shove at you. The thing is, nobody ever told you that in real life, you don’t actually have to be there if you don’t want to! Instead of coming up with the right answer, you can change the problem!

Imagine that Bill Gates took a chemistry exam and failed. Some teachers walk up to him and say, “You FAILED! These answers are horrible!! You will never make it as a chemist!” Do you think he’d care? He’d probably be like, “Okay, so?” and continue making his billions of dollars. Doing well in school being a good thing is based on the assumption that you are trying to solve the “get ahead in school problem”!

In school, people give you problems to solve and you solve it. In life, you set your own problems to solve! You don’t ever have to do anything! Of course, most people like to solve the problem of “staying alive for some period of time” (which incidentally triggers the idea that the desire to exist is the basis of all meaning).

So how does this apply to the us and the big bully? What should we do?

Well, you only are unhappy because you want to a) teach the big bully a lesson and b) play with the model train. The solution? Re-evaluate what you want and make sure that this is actually what you want! If it was your spouse or your close friend, wouldn’t you let him/her play with your model train and not care?

The Same Solution From Two Perspectives

Therefore, if you change your goal to “make big bully my friend and play together in the long run”, then all of a sudden, Option 1 seems like a good idea! You can go over there and say, “I like you and want you to be my friend, so please feel free to play with the train and all these other toys I got for us! :-) ” Isn’t that a lot harder to resist for the big bully? You’d probably get to play with your model train once he gets tired of it anyway! Plus, you get to play with all these other toys he’d probably get for you guys!

This solution viewed from the angry person looking for revenge standpoint though would appear that you’ve caved in. The angry person would literally not understand at all what you are doing!

It is the exact same solution, but viewed with an additional perspective!

A Little Dimension Lets You See A Lot More

This reminds me of the book Flatland in which a bunch of two dimensional beings (living on a plane) meet a three dimensional being. When the three dimensional being intersects the plane, all the two dimensional beings see is a particular type of line (which is a bad thing in this 2-D world if I remember correctly). However, as the three dimensional being starts passing through the plane, the length of the line changes and these 2-D inhabitants are quite stunned and confused.

This would be the same situation above, with the angry person staying in his 2-D world and only seeing the line. As the months pass and you become the bully’s good friend (and the bully becomes a better person), it would probably be a complete shock to the angry person!

Luckily, we have the power to think about other perspectives and in doing so, may be able to see the bigger picture better. Then, hopefully, we can just redefine these unsolvable problems into solvable ones :-)

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12 Responses to “How To Solve Problems By Changing Your Frame Or Perspective”

  1. Tebogo Mukuwa on March 15th, 2008 11:21 pm

    Very much impresed and motivated by these articles

  2. Warren on March 16th, 2008 12:03 am

    Hi Tebogo! Thanks for the encouragement! :-)

  3. JHS on March 16th, 2008 10:02 pm

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life: St. Patrick’s Day Edition at Colloquium! The Carnival will be live at midnight (Pacific time) on March 17, 2008, so drop by and check out all of the wonderful submissions included this week! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!

  4. Thinkslice on March 17th, 2008 8:55 am

    Hey! Thanks for the nice read. I’ve often thought over the past few years “You can’t always change your circumstances but you can always change your perspective.” You nicely summed that up into an analogy that we can all relate to. (Being a kid is hard right?)

    I’ll have to keep checking back to your site for more!

  5. Brian Chan on March 23rd, 2008 2:40 am

    hi Warren,

    Very nice read. I have learnt much from your article. Recently, I have written a short article on problem solving as well. If you have the time, do read it and I appreciate any comments.

    Looking forward to more articles from your site.


  6. Warren on March 26th, 2008 12:24 pm

    @thinkslice: Yeah haha! Being a kid is definiately hard!! :)

    @Brian: Thanks Brian! Looking forward to more from your site as well :-)

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  8. Amy on January 7th, 2009 2:14 pm

    I enjoyed the read too and was reminded of what Samuel Sagan of the Clairvision school teaches:

    “You don’t change by solving your problems, you solve you problems by changing”.

    And that to me, like the point in your article, is enthralling!

  9. sudan on June 24th, 2010 7:07 pm

    it was realy fuc

  10. Sergejus The Positive Thinking And Self Talk Cultivating Guy on July 28th, 2010 3:49 pm

    Your site is excellent. I’m really impressed and waiting for your next article. I hope we’ll get it soon. Really appreciate this post especially. It’s tough to sort the good from the bad sometimes,thanks Warren for your insights.

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