Problems as Opportunities

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

I think everyone will agree that the greatest source of stress in our lives are our problems.  But is it really our problem or just how we relate to our problem is the problem?  Meaning what makes us stressful is our attitude towards our problem but not necessarily the problems in life because as many would say we will always have them.

Problems come in many forms, sizes and degree of seriousness.  One thing that is common with them is that we wish things were different.  There are two possible responses we can make on them.  One is to accept the situation if we can’t do anything about it, which will little by little give us peace.  Thus, the saying happiness is equal to reality minus expectation.  And the other is to do something about it by analyzing the problem and come up with a solution.  If you don’t act on your problem when it is under your control you will end up wanting them to go away but it won’t, which will make the problem bigger and cause more stress.

But we can look at problems in a new way.  Rather than push it away and resist it, let’s try to embrace it.  Problems like mistakes are teachers; they teach us a lesson.  And with the lesson there is also an opportunity.  An opportunity to practice a virtue or a set of virtues.  If it’s a failure in not accomplishing our goals in life, it could be teaching us the value of hard work and that we should start practicing the virtue of discipline.  If you’ve worked hard and did your best on that goal but still failed, maybe it is teaching you the value of patience and to try to acquire that virtue because most goals in life can’t be acquired by a few tries but usually by numerous ones.  Not giving up even if one has failed three times in a board exam or getting rejected by twenty companies when trying to get that needed job.  If you don’t have great patience and quit on these instances which could very be much discouraging looking at it in a human point of view, then failure will have the last say.  You will then go on with your life wondering what could have happened had you persevered and tried a few more times.  Authors of self-improvement books would say that those who quit after having tried already many times were just a few more failures away, of getting what they want.  They are the runners who stopped and quit with the finish line just around the corner.

If you are the quitter type maybe you can learn from these famous people.  The founder of KFC, Colonel Harland Sanders was rejected 1,009 times before his famous recipe coined “Kentucky Fried Chicken” was accepted.  Stephen King was rejected by 30 publishers when he submitted his first novel Carrie in the 1970’s.  Jack Ma, the richest man in China and founder of Alibaba, was rejected 10 times applying for Harvard University, and was turned down 30 times applying for a job in his hometown.  Included in those 30 job rejections were a failure to get a KFC job when 23 people were already accepted and he was the 24th, as well as the failure to become a policeman when four of his companions got accepted and he the fifth and last one was left out.

Problems makes us better or bitter.  There is a purpose to our problems or if we want to call it with a better phrase to our “challenges in life”.   That purpose is called growth.  Growth in virtues and growth in character.  That’s why God at times purposefully sends them because otherwise we would become lazy, impatient, stubborn with our vices, and stagnant in life.  And the God of love does not want His children to be unhappy so we should thank God for His heaven-sent problems and difficulties because they are for our ultimate good and happiness.  And they always go together, goodness, virtue and happiness.  Actually, it’s goodness is equal to happiness.