Updated: Oct 14, 2022
When we encounter a problem, whether it's big or small, practical, emotional, or situational, most of us tend to analyze our way to a solution.
We try to think harder, longer, and deeper in the hopes that the more we think about it, the faster we'll be able to solve it and the better solution we'll come up with.
Sometimes that works and sometimes (especially with problems that are more complex) it doesn't.
Think about it. Have you ever sat at a table with a pen and paper, trying to come up with a solution, racking your brain, but ended up coming up with nothing, no matter how hard you tried to think?
It's very normal to try to go about solving problems this way because we're a very top-heavy society, where the analytical mind, analytical skills, logic, information, science, and evidence are more valued than for example, intuition, being in flow, etc.
If we take one look at our current school system it quickly becomes clear that creativity, intuition, emotional mastery, art, music (typical right brain activities), along with the other "softer skills" take a backseat to the typical left brain activities that engage the rational mind.
The power and limits of the mind
Indeed, our mind is a beautiful and powerful problem-solving machine: as soon as we ask a question or encounter a problem, it's starts to browse its database of information for ideas and suggestions, trying its best to resolve the task at hand.
But for all its analytical skills, the mind is limited and it also keeps projecting our past onto the future. The solutions it presents to us (especially if our problems are emotional and personal vs typical analytical problems that can be resolved by using the analytical mind) are familiar, safe and within our belief system.
For example, if you have a desire to create your dream job, but doing that feels risky or unsafe, the mind will either try to convince you that that's not possible (because it has been blind to or has truly never seen evidence that would support that) or it will wire it with a bad experience from the past / examples of how it can't work, which will immediately put a limitation on the possibilities.
The truth is though, there are limitless possibilites, but are BEYOND THE MIND.
That's why in order to solve more complex problems (problems where no matter how hard you think, you can't seem to find a solution, for example: finding a soulmate, getting your dream job, creating a life you want...) we have to tap into a deeper knowing (our intuition, knowledge of the body, our essence), which sees beyond the limitations of the mind and is expansive and unconditional.
Think of the mind as a car that's driving through a tunnel. It's only able to see and react to what's in the tunnel. But the deeper knowing is above it all and sees the tunnel, the landscape around it, the whole highway, and everything that's ahead and behind it. It sees the bigger picture. ⛰️
Stop thinking about the problem to solve the problem
That's because, as Albert Einstein so beautifully said:
"We can't solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created it."
In other words, instead of trying to solve our problem from the same thinking, belief system, and the same energy that created it, we have to give ourselves some space, slow it down and not force it, knowing that we'll come back to it.
Alyssa Nobriga, Founder of the Institute of Coaching Mastery says: "Instead of trying to push your way to change, accept it internally and execute externally."
What she means by that is: instead of driving yourself crazy thinking about how to solve your problem, first stop resisting it and simply accept the fact that it's here and that something has already accepted it. I love how Katie Byron says: "When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100 percent of the time." It's about getting to a place of acceptance & peace and then from here going into action in the most loving and aligned way.
1️⃣ Step 1 is accepting the current reality (remember, the present moment reality will change!)
2️⃣ Step 2 is stepping away and doing/thinking about something else for a little while. It doesn't matter what we do, as long as it's something we enjoy so that we can let go of the problem for a few moments, and give ourselves some space.
👑 Here's a little story from when I was in high school. (I'll never forget this because I was so amazed when I experienced it!)
When I was 16 or 17 I had been preparing for an important maths test. Maths was never my favorite subject, but I quite enjoyed the fact that if I followed a certain set of rules (and made no mistakes), I'd get to the right solution.
As I was studying, I came across one equation that I found particularly challenging (this was algebra, I think). I must have spent 2 hours on that one equation and I kept getting it wrong. By this time it was 1:00 am in the morning and I had to wake up at 6:30 am.
I knew what the right answer was from looking it up, but I kept making a mistake in the process. Even though this was an important test and I knew a version of this equation will be in it, I decided that it's ok if I don't get it, I made my peace with it and went to bed.
And then the most glorious thing happened: I dreamt about how to get to the solution and I remembered it first thing in the morning! Still a little baffled and not sure whether what I came up with was actually usable, I quickly tried it out and it worked! 🎉
All I had to do was accept what is, step away and give my analytical mind a break. By doing that and going to bed I was in a more relaxed and receptive state and that's when the solution came to me.
Quantum physics and the vibration of the solution
I want to invite you to entertain the idea that we come up with the best solutions when we're not actually thinking about the problem from our analytical mind, but are in a state of flow and receptiveness (for example sleeping or enjoying another activity) without any pressure while staying open and receptive to ideas.
This is what Einstein meant when he said that in order to solve a problem we have to get to another level of consciousness: it's about going from worry, fear, anger, and frustration (emotions that vibrate with a lower frequency) to acceptance, love, and gratitude (emotions that vibrate with a higher frequency).
The lower vibrating emotions put us in the energy of contraction, lack, and limitation, while the higher vibrating emotions open us up: we are more relaxed, expansive, and receptive to new ideas, and possibilities.
Sometimes we can raise our vibration just by stepping away from the problem, doing something fun, moving our bodies, thinking about something else...
...and sometimes we are so emotionally or mentally attached to solving the problem (for example getting a job etc.), that we still feel blocked and contracted, no matter what activity we do.
In this case, I recommend first doing some inner work:
🧘🏽 Bring acceptance to whatever is present:
Simply be with the sensation of fear, allowing and breathing into it for at least 90 seconds (scientists have found that it only takes 90 seconds (!!) for an emotion to pass through if we identify it, label it, and observe it without trying to change it).
✍🏽 Inquire into any misunderstandings around the problem (I can't do it. It's impossible, etc.) and ask yourself:
Can I know without a shadow of a doubt that that's true
Can I find 5 examples of how the opposite is true?
This will help clear your mind and calm down your nervous system so that you'll be able to access solutions.
Again, stepping away + slowing it down + doing the inner work is what will raise your vibration, and give you a sense of power & freedom. It's from that place that you will have access to clarity, new ideas, and more flow…
A practical problem-solving method for more complex problems
Here is my adaptation of the problem-solving method, which is one of the standard intervention techniques in the field of cognitive behavioral psychology.
You're welcome to print it out and go through the tool/method when you find it hard to solve a problem.
Have fun, stay open, and know that there is an aligned solution for every and any problem you may have. It can be as simple as seeing beyond the mind. 💪
1️⃣ What is a problem or a challenge you are currently struggling with?
2️⃣ What is your deeper desire? How do you believe you will feel once you find a solution?
3️⃣ What do you see as standing in the way of you finding that solution (inner and outer)? Are there any limiting beliefs you have bought into surrounding the challenge / solution?
4️⃣ Notice any sensations and / or contractions that may be present in your body (tightness in your chest, throat, belly, tense shoulders, etc), allowing everything and breathing into it for 90 seconds.
5️⃣ Do inquiry work as mentioned above. For each misunderstanding ask yourself "Can I know without a shadow of a doubt that that's true?" + find 5 examples of the opposite
6️⃣ Put some distance between you and the problem: step away from this worksheet and from your problem + focus on something else completely, but stay open to ideas.
7️⃣ When you feel lighter, come back to it and brainstorm at least 10 crazy ideas of how you could solve your problem. You're not committing to anything at this point, you're just allowing yourself to explore and see what comes up. There's no need to evaluate anything, in this step you're giving yourself the freedom to explore without judgment.
8️⃣ Look at the list and see which idea feels most alive to you and which one you'd like to try. Choose something that's easy, fun, and exciting! This is where you commit to one idea and define what aligned next steps you want to take.
9️⃣ Give yourself a timeframe where you can experiment with this, for example, 14 or 30 days, and then go off and experiment! Time for aligned action baby! 💃🏽
🔟 Once that time period is over, reassess and notice what worked, what didn't, and tune into how you'd like to continue (maybe slightly adapt the current idea, maybe choose another one from the list). Keep on going until you find a solution.
If you try this out, let me know how it went. I would love to hear about your experience and celebrate you! 🎉
And know that if at any time you feel stuck, I'm always here to support you. 💕
With all my love & gratitude
Clinical Psychology II, Study Materials, Camilla von Loesch, Impulse e.V.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, 2012, Scribner