4 Ways To Handle Any Problem

Using my learning curve to show how you can handle any problem one of four ways:

Here is my first attempt at a video-cast. In the interest of getting it out and produced, I fixed the worst of the problems (it recorded vertically vs. horizontally, so I flipped the video, which caused some scale loss) but left the audio issues and didn’t attempt any real post-production. To put it mildly, this was frustrating and disappointing, and occupied a lot of my energy and time over a couple of days.

Instead of deleting and trying over, I’m going to use this process as an example of how you can handle literally any problem one of four ways:

4 Ways To Handle Any Problem
Four ways to handle any problem: Solve the problem, feel better about the problem, tolerate the problem, stay miserable.

From the video, how I handled the problem:

  1. I solved the problem of the flipped video by learning some rudimentary skills in Microsoft’s video editor and in Blender. 
  2. I changed my feelings to feel better about the video by emphasizing that I finished it, and if I got it out before midnight, I would keep my promise.
  3. I tolerated the problem by accepting that this video is far from perfect and that my learning curve will help others. Tolerating problems can involve reminding yourself that the problem is temporary, not dangerous, not important, or some combination of those.
  4. I stayed miserable by not getting the rest I should have today, in order to work on the video and on websites today.

Solving the Problem:

Solving problems often involves learning new skills, finding new resources or support, or looking at the problem differently. In my example, I spent a little time learning basic video editing skills. You might be working on something completely different. What skills could you learn? What resources (time, things, skills) could you use to succeed? Who would be willing and able to help you do what you need to do or teach you to do it yourself?

Feeling Better About a Problem:

Changing your feelings about a problem often involves learning to see things from different points of view. This may include different timescales and other people’s points of view. Perhaps instead of seeing setbacks as failures, you might start thinking of them as things you have learned not to do. How might someone who enjoys the sort of problem you’re working on see it? What is something you do like about the situation?

Tolerating the Situation:

Tolerating problems can involve reminding yourself that the problem is temporary, not dangerous, not important, or some combination of those. So if you don’t know how to do something, tolerate it by reminding yourself that you have the ability to learn.

If you have to deal with someone you don’t like, perhaps remind yourself that at some point that person will no longer be interacting with you, or that you will be able to change the dynamics in the future. Spend some time looking at what you consider “dangerous” and why? It it dangerous? Or do you have a scary anxiety reaction to it? Those are two different things.

Like with deciding to stay miserable (below) try whenever possible to think of tolerating the situation as a short term solution.

Deciding to Stay Miserable

Staying miserable involves deciding that right now, for a moment or for awhile you are not going to (be able to) choose one of the other ways to handle the problem. It’s best in small doses. I can’t emphasize enough that staying miserable is a choice. It’s a choice often made because all of the other choices cause anxiety or discomfort, and that anxiety or discomfort is enough to keep you from making small or large changes that will allow you to first perhaps tolerate, then change your emotions about, and even maybe solve your problem.


Not all problems can be solved. Most can be solved in the long term, but not all. A terminal disease, or chronic incurable pain cannot be solved. However, many people in those situations find ways to build lives in which they spend a lot of time doing things they love to do, with people they love to be with, in situations they love being in.

This post is not an endorsement of positive psychology. It is not a requirement to avoid “staying miserable” all the time. Sometimes all of the bullshit that we go through gets to us and we wallow for a bit in Miseryland. And that’s fine. Just remember that even if the problem is “unsolveable” (at least right now), you have two other choices.

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