It’s Easy to Become Overwhelmed by Our Problems & Challenges in Life, Until We Discover the ‘Problem Solving Perspective!’
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Problem Solving. Problems come in all scales and sizes; they range from the trivial – the shop running out of eggs, to the angry boss who’s forever on your back! Many people have an absolute nightmare when it comes to problem solving.
While as westerners, we enjoy a lifestyle much more fortunate than many other parts of the world, we still find time to complain about the more trivial problems of everyday life.
Sometimes when I work with people, a common recurring problem I recognise is a lack of direction, hope, meaning and purpose that people have for their futures.
One of the most devastating earthquakes the world has ever seen struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, at 4:53 pm, which witnessed more than 200,000 dead bodies dragged through the streets — not taking into account the multiples of human beings that were crushed beyond physical recognition. The 7.0 magnitude quake’s epicentre hit just 10 miles west of Porte-Au-Prince and its 2 million inhabitants.
These facts made Haiti’s earthquake one of the most lethal natural disasters in modern day history; the death toll was stated to be greater than the 230,000 people who were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
On Sunday 21st February 2010, Haitian President, Rene Preval said: “The death toll from last month’s devastating earthquake in Haiti could jump to 300,000 people, including the bodies that are still buried under collapsed buildings in the capital”. Unfortunately, before the quake, Haiti had no ‘set in stone’ construction standards.
These facts, incidentally, aren’t just figures that I’ve pulled from a website, as in February 2010, I was part of a four-man team who delivered over 1 tonne of emergency medical supplies and food rations to an orphanage and hospital on the island.
The horror of Haiti is shocking, and it is only human to feel compassion for the victims of natural disasters like these but truthfully, in the context of our materialistic western world — it is only a small percentage of people that would give these statistics a second thought.
Primarily, as we journey through life, our main concerns are invested into the meeting of our personal needs and in finding ways to feel happy at generally, whatever cost necessary.
If you were to consider the broad range of people that you know and do relationships with, you might become aware of the conspicuous absence of poor people in your life. You’ll most likely know many people of every hue and background, but possibly not too may ‘poor’ people.
By poor, I’m talking about those who are experiencing hard economic times caused by political oppression or natural disaster – not about those who live minimally because they, a) choose not to work, or b) are undisciplined with their finances.
It’s often easy to become so immersed in our immediate needs and wants not being met, that we become oblivious to the needs and wants of other people. Many people are central to their own little worlds.
Throughout the world today, depression rates have never been higher, stress statistics, anxiety rates and addiction cases.
The main negative emotions that people commonly experience will most often stem from not knowing how to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of them getting what they want. Yup, most people, are completely self-consumed!
One common Western belief is that success in life is determined by a person’s ability to amass wealth, status and materialistic possessions. Few people link success to making a meaningful contribution to the world in some way.
Success is most commonly understood in relation to financial ‘richness’.
Have you ever wondered why it is, that when we talk about rich people, we generally refer to the wealthy neighbours up the road or those that have amassed more money or ‘stuff’ than ourselves?
When we talk about poverty, however, this topic is often slightly more challenging to comprehend. In 2002, one of the larger US banks carried out research and produced figures stating that 1.2 Billion people around the world live in desperate poverty.
‘Desperate poverty’ is a little hard for most people to understand, because culturally, we’re often trained as children to compare ourselves to those that have more than us, not to those who have less than us.
Commonly, when we think about rich people, we reflect on those who have larger cars than us, or who have a bigger house than us. We might compare ourselves to those who own boats, or who go on more frequent exotic holidays than us, and naturally, most of us compare ourselves to those who have more money than us.
In summer 2009, I was sitting with a friend one evening while living in Queenstown, New Zealand — possibly one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in the world; I had the good fortune of being able to live and work there for almost three years. Queenstown, a beautiful town which sat next to a glacier-filled lake at the foot of Remarkables, snow-capped mountain range. A breathtaking place to live!
My friend told me a story about a man that he knew, who was Queenstown’s top immigration lawyer and one of the region’s top earners who lived a few houses up the road from where he lived.
He told me how this man was one of the richest in town; he shared of the man’s 50m salt-water pool, his new BMW, and all the intricate details of his personal home gym.
I heard all about how rich this man and his family were… while we sat, eating fillet steak, sipping ice-cold beer, while sitting at his Pinewood dinner table, on the balcony of his $3.2M Villa. This villa, which incidentally, overlooked the glacier-filled lake, had a striking mountain range backdrop – one of the most spectacular views I have ever experienced!
As I sat there, reflecting, I compared my friend’s standard of living to that of my own at the time, and the differences were very apparent. I guess that it’s easy to view other people who have ‘more than us’ as being the ‘rich ones’ in life. We very seldom appreciate the extent of our worldly belongings, and see ourselves like the rich people.
What would happen if we compare ourselves (and the quality of our lives) to the 1.6 Billion people in the world who live in desperate poverty? How rich would we see ourselves in comparison to the average Haitian family who are still rebuilding their lives after an earthquake that happened over half a decade ago?
Granted, making comparisons like this can be difficult. A leading US economist once described poverty as follows;
“For you to somehow identify with the 1.6 Billion in desperate poverty, this is what would need to happen.
Someone would need to come into your house and take out and away all of your furniture, the beds, the sofas, the cushions and coffee tables. You’d have to get rid of the fridge, the freezer, the kettle, toaster, microwave and George Foreman grill.
The 50” Flat Screen Smart 3D TV would have to go, followed by your DVD player, your iMac, your iPad, iPod and iPhone. Your carpets and central heating will also have to go.
All that you’d be left with is a small wooden table, a few wooden chairs and a blanket — if you’re lucky. Then, your cupboards and pantries would be stripped bare. You’d be left with some salt, sugar, some rice, flour, a few dried beans and maybe some potatoes once or twice per month. You’ll have no meat, milk, eggs, bread or chocolate.
Your super-green smoothies would be gone; microwave meals gone, beer would be gone. The fresh fruit was gone, the tinned food also was gone, your crunchy nut cornflakes went, and in their place, you might remain with a half-bucket of oats.
Next, your bedroom must be stripped bare, all your clothes need to go, your makeup needs to go, perfume and aftershave collections also must go. Guys, you’ll be left with a shirt and one pair of trousers. Ladies, you might be left with a skirt and blouse.
There will be one pair of shoes in the household, which the head of the family will wear; woman and children will have none. If you have kids, well, they were born naked, and can stay that way until the find something that fits them from the body of someone else who has died.
Then your house, we need to downsize. Your water, electricity, gas and home broadband contract need to be cancelled. You’ll have to move out of your house into the garden shed which is where you’ll live from now on. Ever through winter.
You can’t access newspapers, magazines and the 6 pm news anymore, but this is OK because you are Illiterate and can’t read or write anyway – you can’t afford formal education for either yourself or your family.
The only hospital you have access to is 12 k away, so if you or your family get sick (which you frequently will) you’ll have to walk there unless you are fortunate to own a bicycle.
Regarding your personal finances, how much money do you have? Well, if you take your savings and monthly earnings into account, you might have around about £3.70 GBP ($6.00 USD). And that’s your life.”
If there is any way that you could somehow, visualise and imagine what it would be like to live like this, you may begin to understand what it means to be one of the 1.6 Billion people who genuinely live in desperate poverty. Although all of us are created with the same needs and wants, we aren’t all set up with the same beginnings in life.
A recent Oxfam report suggested that there are 3.8 Billion people in the world (almost half the world population), who live and support their families on less than £1.40 ($3.00) per day. Personally, I find this quite humbling.
In the UK, a recent NHS report suggested that over 37% of the national population suffers from either anxiety, depression or stress. I often wonder how anxious, depressed and stress this 37% would be if they were to compare themselves to the percentage of the world population that I’ve previously mentioned. Perspective is a fascinating thing.
Just to mention, the purpose of this article hasn’t been to raise your awareness of global inequality or to attack the western way of life. My goal has been to free your mind from the problems you’re currently facing, and offer you a fresh perspective on life.
And in case I’ve failed to help you view your problems from a new perspective, one closing thought I’d like to make is this; in the time it’s taken you to read this article, 1087 babies will have died due to malnutrition and sickness as a result of global poverty.
Sometimes, the most efficient way to deal with our routine day-to-day problems is by just bringing them into perspective.
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