Why a photo of a wildfire? Because there are two different ways to look at a wildfire.
It’s very rare that I share an idea that was originally mine. Over time I have borrowed great ideas from others, and then tried to implement them into my life and continue to spread those good ideas to others. One of the ones that I embrace the most is the concept of managing tensions vs solving problems. As a dedicated problem solver, any time things feel out of whack, I want to jump in with identifying the problem and figuring out how to come up with a solution. (More on solving problems rather than complaining another time) But, what one of my closest colleagues shared with me years ago changed how I approach problems.
You see, not every discomfort is actually a problem. Instead sometimes the things that feel uncomfortable are tensions that we need to learn how to manage. For example, when I was a young mother trying to figure out how to show up at work 100% while also showing up at home 100%, this colleague pointed out to me that I will never solve that problem. I suppose I could quit my job, but that could potentially lead to other challenges whether it be finance or fulfillment. Or I could hand off the child to social services and ditch the whole parenting thing, but again, not the best solution. Instead, he encouraged me to look at this challenge as a tension to manage. When you look at a challenge as a tension to manage rather than a problem to solve, you accept that this tension won’t go away and it’s something you need to accept will rise up from time to time.
This paradigm shift allowed me to look at this challenge differently, which meant I didn’t get as frustrated when things would bubble up around it. Yes, there would be times I didn’t give work 100%, but 80% of my awesomeness was still enough. And there were times my kids didn’t get me 100%, but guess what, they still got fed, cared for, and loved. And, at the end of the day they didn’t need me 100% all the time, just some of the time. So I could focus on giving work as much as I could within reason, and then when I stepped back into my mom role I could show up 100% for my girls, but I didn’t have to do that 100% of the time.
So, next time you are faced with a problem, ask yourself if it is a problem to be solved, or a tension to be managed? Once you identify that, it becomes a lot easier to figure out your next steps. Now look at that wildfire photo again and ask, is that a tension to manage or a problem to solve? Are we going to be able to solve the problem of unhealthy forests so we never have a wildfire again? Nope, they will continue to pop up, and we need to learn how to manage that tension to keep our forests healthy. Forest health and air quality and all that good stuff is for another day though….I just wanted to get your attention with the photo!