Problems… such a negative word.

It’s tough to look at a list of problems and feel a sense of excitement or even a sense of contentment.

Instead, problems usually have a way of painting a grim picture of the world around us. Problems can cause us to complain, cast blame, and question ourselves or our general direction in life.

But is there another way to look at them? Do problems always have to be signs of disaster? Or can they represent something better? Something positive?

Today, I challenge you to look at problems differently – I want you to consider the possibility that problems actually represent progress along your journey.

Problems as a Guide Post

A key aspect of today’s message is: if we aren’t experiencing problems with what we are working towards in our life, then we aren’t playing big enough.

Problems signify that we are stretching ourselves and pushing into uncharted territory. It means that we are playing our game in a bigger arena where the stakes are higher.

If we are experiencing new problems on our journey, then I believe it means that we are on the right path.

Problems create the opportunity to develop new skills or improve existing ones. Problems enable us to learn new things, gain new perspectives and expand our way of thinking. Problems can lead to effective solutions that allow us to continue our forward momentum.

While thinking through the concept of problems meaning progress, I reflected back on many conversations I’ve had around the topic of problems. It reminded me that this idea of problems meaning progress is something that we inherently know until we are in the problem. Not sure what I mean? Think of a conversation you were in where you or someone else said something like the following:

  • I wish I had his/her problems.
  • That’s a good problem to have!
  • That’s a great problem to solve.

In my experience, these comments emerge in conversations about a person, team or organization who is at a level you aspire to be at, and experiencing a level of success and growth that you are working towards – more specifically, it relates to a situation that you are not actually in.

However, do we carry this same sense of wonder and awe when we are in it with our own problems? Have we ever stopped to think that there is someone on the sidelines wishing they had our problems?

So I challenge you on two levels today…

First, if you are on your life path and not experiencing problems, then I challenge you to play bigger. If we do not challenge ourselves and continually strive to play at higher levels, then even if we are moving forward, I’d argue that we are ultimately still stagnant. Forward momentum at the same degree of difficulty is not a path to growth, mastery, or the best version of ourselves. Embrace problems, play bigger, and make real progress!

My second challenge to you, is to allow yourself to get excited about the next problem that comes your way! Yes, the problem itself may suck… But my challenge is to simply acknowledge what this new problem represents. It represents the next step of your growth. It signifies playing bigger. And it stands as another marker of progress on your journey.

Give yourself one moment to appreciate the opportunity that your problem presents, and then get to work on crushing that problem and continuing towards the next one!

Problems as a Reality Check

Before I close out today, I want to mention one critical distinction. Up above, I specifically mentioned experiencing new problems on our journey as it relates to making progress.

Here is the reality check: If we are consistently experiencing problems, but they are the same problems, over and over then that is a not a sign of making progress.

It means that we aren’t playing smart enough.

One of the great opportunities packaged within problems is the ability to learn something new, adapt your approach, and move forward smarter and more equipped for the next challenge. If we don’t learn from our problems, mistakes or challenges in life then we are doomed to repeat them, and we are setting ourselves up to waste so much of our precious time and resources fighting the same battles over and over.

So if you are running into the same problems again and again, my challenge for you is to take a step back, look at that problem, and dig into the why / root cause behind it. Find the nugget of wisdom and growth buried within it, and then adapt your approach, processes, mindset and/or skillset to avoid running into that problem again down the road.

So as we hit the field today, let’s all remember to:

  • Recognize new problems as a guide post of progress
  • Embrace the learning and growth that problems provide
  • Play bigger when we are problem-free, and
  • Play smarter when we are plagued by the same problems over and over.

Problems mean progress, and progress means we are on the path to the best version of ourselves. Let’s get after it!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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