Stuck on a Problem? Here’s an Answer!

Have you ever come across a problem that just seems impossible? Like already walking a thousand miles, only to come across a wall? And not just any wall, but the One Wall to Block Them All. Have you ever been so stuck?

So what can you do? You’ve already tried the conventional way, but there was just no going through. You might have even gotten creative, tried to scale that sucker or dig some tunnels underneath, maybe even build a catapult? But that wall it keeps knocking you right back down, take no prisoners leave no names kind of stubborn. Man, must be frustrating. So what can you do?

Once on an expedition in Mongolia, during a workshop preparing us for our journey, we were asked to picture ourselves in a compromising position. Imagine, we were told, you are going for a walk, unguided, by yourselves, into the forests away from the ger (the traditional round domes that are home to our nomadic hosts). Deep into the forest, you suddenly see that not far off in the distance a lightening storm is brewing, and is headed your way. How do you escape the danger?

My first reaction would be to stop walking at once, turn around and retrace my steps to get back to the safety of the ger. Wrong! my enthusiastic instructor delighted in telling me, you will die, you are dead. Well, in my defense reason tells us that walking forwards takes us from A to B, so walking backwards on those same steps should get you from B to A. But in reality, when you turn around in a forest you will see that the entire scenery has changed. You won’t recognize tit from tat, so if you tried to walk back – even if you stick to the exact way you think you walked – you will invariably become lost and turned into lightning chow.

In a world where things feel neat and tidy and everything seems straightforward, finding solutions can appear to be a zero sum game. But that kind of thinking is inside of the box. Solutions are not all simple, and sometimes when you backtrack, you will find out that the landscape has completely changed. You are not walking backwards into places you have already journeyed, no, you are stepping into a whole new world.

Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.

                                                                                  – Albert Einstein 

Just how then do you change perspective? How do you step out of the proverbial box? Like the forest that got a face lift once you started looking at it from behind, it’s important to remember that the landscape did not experience a seismic shift. The trees did not pick up their skirts and scramble in a game of musical chairs. Everything is as it was, the only thing that changed in creating this new perspective, is you.

That’s all it takes to tackle a problem from a different angle; the angles themselves don’t need to change, you do. How to change yourself? Simple. Increase your awareness of the world. As much as you think you know, accept that you don’t know. Start from there and build up. Take bits and pieces here to there. The knowledge tree is blooming at all times, dangling tempting morsels right in front of you. Don’t just reach for the low hanging fruit, get up there, get your knees dirty and climb those branches! Find the hard to crack nooks and crannies and stick your fingers into them. Pull out fat plums of history, suck on sweet pears of stories, drink the tantalizing juices of global traditions. It’s all there for you to find, look and you shall see.

Next time you come up against a problem you can’t solve, drop it like a ticking bomb and back up. Change up your course, shake up the rhythm. Solutions aren’t always with their problems; you got to try on new pairs of glasses to view the world differently too.

The answer to avoiding being trapped in a Mongolian lightening storm it turns out, is to stop moving, and sit down. By not walking forwards or getting lost walking around, you heighten your chances of getting rescued (the nomads unlike you are much better at navigating the forests they frequent, and will be able to find you). Not the first thing you may think of when facing down the eye of danger, being told to do nothing. But then again, not all answers look the way you expect them to!

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