How can we know if we are hooked on problems? Do you find that your life is full of problems and the issues never seem to stop piling up? The house needs cleaning, the yard needs mowing, you’re late for work, the kids are sick, someone cut you off on the road, you spilled coffee on your new suit, the dog threw up everywhere, we’re low on groceries, PTA is tonight, one kid needs braces, the other kid needs glasses, you need to be in two places at once, your clothes don’t fit, the shower is broken, your mother-in-law is mean, kid’s teacher is terrible, debt is mounting, the car battery died, etc.  Did you know there are people in the world that must walk many miles each day to harvest clean water for their family? Let’s put it all into perspective.

Our urge to manifest problems is entirely and naturally up to us. Millions of years ago, each day was a matter of life and death. We had to be on edge for survival. Today, our chances of actually dying depend on things like age, health, and occupation. On average, a 46-year-old male has a 34% chance of dying within one year, according to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary. If you are female, the odds of dying at 46 within a year are 22%. Nowadays, we aren’t worried about dying as we go to retrieve our groceries, so we make stuff up.

Two human needs tend to drive our thinking and actions. The first is a need for significance.  This is our desire to feel important or worthy of others’ attention. This desire for significance manifests itself in all sorts of ways, including a big house, fancy cars, rank in our company, board positions, etc. This need also triggers the compare and despair problem that so many suffer as a result of social media usage. The second major human need is a need for validation.  We want to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. This need for validation is where we tend to begin manifesting problems. For one reason or another, we tend to connect through commiseration. We start conversations with negative or derogatory comments about the weather or the wait service. If we are employees of the same company, it is about some stupid policy that management recently implemented. We attempt to build our status by cutting others down. It is unfortunate when you think about it, yet I find myself doing it from time to time, despite being on the lookout for this kind of negative behavior. We use it to validate our lack of progress, miserable existence, a bad marriage, or awful job. We use negativity to justify our lack of progress toward our dreams. It is a way of deflecting reality and blaming others or institutions. The need for validation within each of us must be tamed in order to live our best lives.

We take the day-to-day responsibilities that we have chosen to bring into our lives and turn them into problems. We complain to our friends and coworkers, seeking validation rather than guidance. They might have the same issues and misery loves company.

Here are a few ideas to help escape the problem habit:

Count your blessings.

It is nearly impossible to be miserable and grateful simultaneously. Begin each day reviewing a list of things in your life for which you are grateful. Make a list right now. Do you have a loving family? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a job? My guess is you don’t have to walk five miles for clean water, so if you are struggling to find something, start there.

Check your relationships.

Misery loves company. Are you spending time with people that have a positive growth mindset?  If the people you are spending time with are negative, put others down, gossip, or focus on all that is wrong with the world, it might be time to find a new set of friends. Jim Rohn tells us that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take inventory and stay alert.

Watch your mouth.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor Frankl

We have a choice of which words to speak and thoughts to think. Most of our words and our thoughts should be focused on making things better. Negativity is easy because others are quick to jump on the bandwagon. You have the ability to direct your thoughts and regulate your words. Mature adults accept responsibility for all aspects of their lives and therefore live in greater harmony with the world around them.

Breaking the cycle of negativity in your life is a choice. After deciding to stop fixating on problems, you can acknowledge the many blessings in your life. Get around people that will lift you up. Choose your words and thoughts intentionally. The happiest people choose positivity over negativity and surround themselves with others that align with their values. It is up to you to kick that problem habit to the curb.

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