In Germany, we have a saying: “A good plan is half the rent.” Similarly, awareness of the problem is half the solution.
If I casually drop “2 + 2 = ?” here, your mind will instantly jump to the number 4. It’s a problem you’ve solved a million times, and yet, your brain can’t resist the satisfaction of filling in the blank once more.
If I made the problem more complicated, your mind might not hand you the solution on a silver platter, but it would latch on to it just the same. That’s because your brain is a problem-solving machine, both figuratively and literally.
For 200,000 years, the human cerebrum has evolved towards this singular purpose — to find creative solutions to unlimited kinds of challenges — and boy, has it gotten good at it. So good that, now, it can barely help itself. Like a shark sensing a drop of blood in the ocean, your mind will proverbially attack anything that even remotely appears as “solvable,” and, trust me, you don’t want it any other way.
For one, if your brain didn’t consider millions of random inputs in its calculations, the best, most creative solutions would always elude you. For another, if kicking your number-crunching into gear always took the cramped, concentrated effort of someone trying to telepathically move a spoon with their mind, you’d never get anything done. You want the autopilot to set off fast because, overall, it’ll make you faster too.
We have another saying in Germany: “Sorrow shared is sorrow halved.” Similarly, a problem shared is a problem half-solved.
That’s the final and most important reason you want your mind to just grab problems like a 9-year-old would quasi-rob a candy store equipped with $20: If you can’t help yourself, neither can anyone else. Since our desire to solve a problem is near-irrelevant to our mind’s tackling it, you can get help anywhere and everywhere: Just share your problems, and others will solve them for you.
If you throw an issue into someone’s awareness, their subconscious will absorb it like water goes into a sponge. Regardless of who brought up the problem, all minds want to be part of the solution, and that’s why humans are, at heart, cooperative creatures. We love rallying together to quench our individual brains’ thirst for cracking a challenge.
This is a wonderful thing — and also why communication is key. Among teams, among friends, among lovers. Humans can’t consider what they don’t know, but everything they do know will somehow be factored into the equation, if only at a subconscious level. Therefore, be delicate in who’s algorithm you trigger, but always get some support.
The employee who flags overwhelm won’t be fired without warning, the friend questioning group dynamics will bring everyone to the table, and the artist with a single good tweet will plant a million solution seeds in minds around the globe.
We spend a lot of time being frustrated because we feel directing our conscious attention to our problems isn’t enough. We toil away for months and complain that “nothing is working.” What if we spent that time on appreciation instead? Maybe, we just need a little more faith in our pattern-seeking machines.
Whatever your biggest problem is, remember: You’re already working on it — and so is everyone you tell about it.
Thanks to Elizabeth Dawber
This post was previously published on The Startup.
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