Are you ready to face your next problem?

By anticipating and by preparing for problems, we can tackle them in a better way, writes Dr Shrirang Bakhle

Every single person in the world has problems – either of this type or that type.

And this is true for every person who has lived! Did you think that only you have problems – and ‘others’ don’t have problems? Then, this will come as a surprise. But you must be thinking: How come ‘they’ always look happy and satisfied and smart, while you feel so unhappy on the inside? The big news is this: it does not mean that ‘they’ do not have problems, but that they have learnt to adapt and adjust to the problems, to be comfortable in spite of the problems, to put the problems in a corner of the mind and not allow the problems to dominate the mind.

Can everyone learn this trick? Can you learn how to take the problems in the stride and be at ease even in the middle of the problems? Yes, you can also learn how to do this. It is said, – in a funny but true way – that the trouble with learning from experience is that you get the exams before the tuitions! How to learn facing the problems – while we are already in battle with them? But it can be done.

All of us get two categories of problems: (1) “The bolt from the blue” kind of problem. Such problems are sudden and unexpected. But they are rare. (2) “The again and again” kind of problems. Most of our day to day problems belong to this category. Everyone, typically has five or six problems that keep coming back again and again. For example, office pressures or interpersonal problems at home, office or in social circles.

Most such problems are related to frictions of different types of personalities. If personalities will not change, such frictions will  keep creating problems. For example, consider different viewpoints between husband and wife or between parents and children or between in-laws. Or consider interpersonal problems in the office. Such problems typically keep bothering again and again and yet again. The majority of our problems are of this type.

One way of looking at it, is to think, “Oh, no! This problems is likely to trouble me again and again.” The other way of looking at it is, “If I know such as a problem is going to come – in advance – then I can be ready for it, ready to tackle it in a much better way. By knowing that a particular problem is going to come, I get a chance to prepare myself for it.” And this ‘anticipatory preparedness’ is what this article is about.

By anticipating and by preparing for the problems, we can tackle them in a much better way. The best time to prepare is when there is free time, when you are not in an emotional turmoil already. The first step in this is to write down and make a list of all the problems. Writing is such a useful activity. It helps to crystallize our thoughts, so that we can understand the problem much better. For example, K.P., an employee of a company had some unpleasant experiences in his office.

Gradually, he came to detest going to the office. But he could not exactly explain why he was unhappy about the office. He said it was the atmosphere in the office. When probed further, he said, it was office politics. When I suggested him to write down his problems, his thoughts started becoming clearer. It was the unhealthy competition between him and some other colleagues that was actually encouraged by a crafty boss. The boss would constantly praise his colleagues (and competitors for the promotion), while demeaning him – apparently to prod him to give better performance in sales.

When he started writing down the problem, the picture became clear. Now it became easy for him to know what to do. Could he change the boss’s brain? No. Could he leave the company? No. But he could see through the boss’s game plan and mentally be ready for it. K.P. was basically a smart person. So he decided beforehand and mentally prepared himself for the boss’s next needling. He told me later that by understanding his boss’s personality and by being ready for it, he can now keep his cool when meeting the boss.

This is being ready for the next problem! If the problem is a recurring problem, then either we can dread the problem, or we can mentally be ready for the challenge. Many of the domestic problems are of the recurring type. For example, teenager’s tantrums and parents’ shoutings. Anger leads to revenge leads to more anger leads to more revenge and so on! Preparing mentally beforehand can help to minimize such problems.

For example, suppose a parent realizes that s/he is overreacting to the child’s tantrums. When the parent is alone and calm, s/he can decide and practise a better emotional response – as compared to the typical angry outburst. Such mental visualization and rehearsal helps a lot to give a better performance when the situation arises. “I will be cool, I will be cool – even if the child is throwing his/her typical tantrum!”

All of us are smart enough to know what is the best or most appropriate response to any situation. But if we are going decide what to do at the spur of the moment, in the middle of the turmoil, then we may not give our best. This is where anticipatory preparation helps.

If we are able to control our reactions, generally the result of the interaction is better. The outcome is better. But even if the outcome is not as good as we wanted, we can remain more cool and calm as a result of the mental preparation.

So if you want to solve or at least minimize your problems, take charge. Begin by writing down your typical five or six problems. Identify what the problem areas are. And then mentally rehearse and prepare yourself – to give your performance!

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