B-Blog: “One Word To NEVER Use When You’re Stuck In a Problem” – Oct, 2016
Our minds are problem-solving machines. They’re designed to non-stop figure things out: What that person’s response actually meant, how we’re going to finish a project on time, how to get out of a bind, which movie to watch, which route will avoid the most traffic… and even whether God exists.
When we find ourselves in a problem, our mind automatically starts working on it. If we’re not careful however, we can end up in a nasty Mind Loop – a repetitive thought pattern that’s negative and leads nowhere – at least nowhere productive.
Instead of finding answers to our problem, we may find ourselves re-hashing old arguments related to the problem, replaying nasty memories, or spinning with “analysis-paralysis”: “If I do X, then Y might happen… But if I do Z… Oh no! K might happen!” And we end up doing nothing at all.
But you can ASK your mind directly to help you find out a solution to a problem. And it will help! Just NEVER start your question with this word:
This little word sets up your mind to behave like your computer when it goes into overload and needs to be rebooted: It will spin. The reason is because there’s no clear answer to a question that begins with “Why”:
“Why didn’t I get that job?”
“Why didn’t she call me back?”
“Why was my childhood so difficult?”
“Why did I have to get sick?”
“Why did (or didn’t) that happen to me?”
There are a gazillion “answers” to these questions, and even those so-called answers will create even more questions. Basically, “Why” questions are unanswerable, and they’ll send you down the rabbit hole of assumptions, resentments, and exhausting Mind Loops.
But look what happens when you start your question with “How…?” or “What…?”:
“What could I have done to better prepare for that job interview?”
“What are my options, now that she didn’t call me back?”
“How did my difficult childhood affect me, and how can I heal from it?”
“How can I take better care of myself to help me get through this illness?”
“What’s the best way to respond, now that that happened to me?”
Two things happen.
First, there’s an acceptance of what IS. Mind Loops dwell on what could have been, and what might happen. But Mind Loops never accept what actually IS happening, or already happened. Acceptance feels good. It may not seem that way at first, but it stops the spinning, and that’s a relief in itself. You regain power, simply by accepting reality.
The second thing that happens is you have somewhere to go with your thoughts now. Your mind has the chance to do what it does so well: Think and solve problems. Specific problems, not the abstract go-nowhere questions that begin with “Why.”
Sometimes it can feel like our minds are working against us. But actually they really do want to help. Give them a little direction – by starting your questions with “How” and “What” – and you’ll start experiencing the fruits of your awesome mind.
Your experiment this week:
Next time you have to figure something out, ask yourself an answerable question. Start your query with “What…” or “How…?” Then let your mind get to work on the problem.
And let me know what term we could give our mental “computer” who answers these problems for us. “Google-Mind?” Hmm… I know there’s something more original than that. “What’s the most fun, catchy term for using our minds like Google?”... I’ll let my mind work on that one for a while.
To your happiness!