Every day we face problems and challenges needing to be solved. Some are pretty tiny, like if you can’t find the cap to the toothpaste, or if you get water on your shirt at the drinking fountain. Some might be harder, like forgetting to prepare for a meeting, or getting sick. At times like these, it’s easy to throw our hands up and get angry at the problem simply because it exists and we have to deal with it.
The problem is, getting angry at the problem does nothing but waste your precious energy. Anger does nothing to solve the problem and it often makes the problem a bigger deal than it deserves to be. Fighting with your significant other won’t find the toothpaste cap. Being mad at your shirt won’t make it dry faster.
When a problem crops up in your day, I encourage you to develop a solutions mindset. Instead of saying things like, “Why can’t anything go right?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” and letting your anger take control, challenge yourself to seek a solution, any solution. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to point you back in the right direction so you can move on with your day. Search for the toothpaste cap. Head on over to the hand dryer in the bathroom. Figure out how you can make the best of your meeting in the time you have. Rest up and drink plenty of fluids.
Developing a solution-focused mindset
The next time a problem smacks you in the face, immediately take a deep breath and remind yourself that being angry at the problem won’t help anyone. Most problems have obvious steps that need to be taken to solve them. If the obvious steps still feel too big and you start sensing that anger creeping in, break the solution into even smaller steps and baby step yourself through the process.
There are a few problems that don’t have an obvious solution, if they have a solution at all. If there isn’t an obvious solution, consider creating distance between you and the problem. Sometimes, all you need is a little space to pull your thoughts back together and see the big picture. Often this results in the next step you can take to resolving the problem.
Some problems are big, like really big. For anything that is beyond your ability to handle, seek out the help you need. I guarantee you there is someone out there that is been through the same thing, and found solutions and success.
When anger is the default setting
Raising an on-spectrum teen has been a challenge. We regularly have to remind him that it is more effective to try to find solutions than get angry at a problem. For a spectrum kid, even the littlest thing can be a big problem – like a sibling humming too loudly on the other side of the house.
As with other skills, consistency is key here. Where most kids might need a handful of teaching moments, mine might need thousands before the message starts to stick. Sometimes it’s so hard to be patient, but in the long run, it’s worth it.
Discussion Question: What’s the most ridiculous problem you’ve gotten mad at recently?