I came across a quote recently by Alan Cohen I think is pure genius: “When you reframe problems as projects, they will cease to bother you and begin to stimulate you.”
Pure genius for me, anyway, as it put my recent experience with a badly strained hamstring in perfect perspective. There I was, on the ballroom dance competition floor, in full “Country two-step” mode (yes, Country is part of ballroom dancing!), when my right foot slipped on the very slick floor, my right leg shot out from under me and down I went. The paramedics, ER and various X-rays, CT scans, etc., revealed no broken bones, no stress fractures, just a nasty strain. Which means six weeks of recovery. And that’s with PT.
The “problem” in that is “no dancing.” Dancing is what thrills my soul, keeps me sane, and works my body big-time. Saying that “bothered” me is so far away from my truth it’s almost indescribable. Terrified and depressed would be closer to how I felt. But when I read Alan Cohen’s quote, I realized that I could take my required break from active dancing as a project, not a problem, and with that, I began to feel a lot better.
I decided to use the time to think through my dance technique and patterns, to watch YouTube videos of professional dancers for how I could improve my dancing, to confer with my instructor on what new skills we could implement once back on my feet. All in the service of using this downtime to my advantage, as opposed to moping on the couch feeling sorry for myself.
Project instead of problem. Problem, you see, implies a “stuckness,” something that impedes progress, whereas “project” implies forward motion. Solution. Movement towards a goal. Suddenly the whole of you is galvanized. You have a positive intention to orient yourself, around which you can gather your energy to best effect.
Ask yourself: where in your life is there a problem, that redefined as a project, might actually advance your happiness and success? Now that’s something worth thinking about. It certainly got me off the couch, still hobbling perhaps, but a whole lot happier and positively inspired.