“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein.
Albert Einstein…every heard of him? I’ve written about him in the past, and low and behold, here we are again.
Whether we are entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, employees, college students, stay at home parents, or anything in between, we all face problems. Problems created both by ourselves and by those around us, which, ultimately, were created by ourselves to begin with. I digress, but think about it.
I’m realizing more and more that problems are unavoidable, regardless of our stage or place in life. Many of us - myself included - take the stance of: “when I achieve this, my problems will go away.” Or “As soon as I get that, all my problems will be solved.”
The fact of the matter is, problems will never go away. As soon as you solve one problem, another problem will surface to take its place. But problems, bound by the physical world, create an equal and opposite reaction when they are overcome, which translate into increased intelligence, skills, and understanding of the world around us.
So instead of focusing on avoiding our problems, we should focus on increasing the quality of our problems.
Think of learning as a literal example of this. When you started to learn basic math, simple addition and subtraction was hard. Learning how to add and subtract was the obstacle to overcome. As your knowledge in math progressed, you had to overcome harder obstacles such as fractions and calculus. The intensity of the math problems grew, but so did your comprehension of the subject.
To Eintstein’s point, to solve any of our problems, social, emotional, analytical or otherwise, we need to think at a higher level than we did when we created them. To picture what he was saying, do this: think of your thoughts as if they are on a one dimensional plane. At the present moment, your mind is operating on a flat surface that extends indefinitely.
When we create a problem, it becomes an obstacle that blocks our one dimensional plane from extending. We can’t go around it. We have to go over it to continue our plane of thinking. Since it's impossible to to elevate in one dimension, we have to literally increase the level of our plane to overcome the obstacle or problem we face. And once we do that, our plane of thinking stays at that higher level of existence. We’ve essentially expanded our mind, increasing it’s level of understanding.
Imagine your brain as the silhouette of a staircase. Your mindset is the flat line of the step you are on currently. When you face a problem and overcome it, you elevate your plane of thinking to the next flat step, after which the process repeats itself. By increasing the level of your thinking you increase our knowledge, skill set, mindset, and therefore your success and happiness.
So in order to increase your success and happiness you need to increase the quality of your problems. When your problems increase in quality, you are forced to further increase the quality of your mind to overcome. Much like a muscle, it’s important to challenge and “tear” your brain so it grows back stronger.
Ultimately, life is about reference experiences. We need to face problems and overcome them, so when we face the same problem again, it isn’t a problem anymore. We don’t have to keep teaching ourselves how to ride a bike, right? Well, at one point in our lives, riding a bike was a huge problem.
Up and up like a staircase, by increasing the quality of our problems, we're increasing the quality of our lives.