Getting From One Problem To The Next As Gracefully As Possible

Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith shares his best advice on how to tackle problems with perspective rather than seeing whatever goes wrong as a disaster.


Sometimes as soon as you solve one problem, another pops up to take its place. If you’re lucky, you get a problem-free day in between. The key is learning to take these problems in stride and navigating through them as gracefully as possible.

Doing this will make your whole life easier because you will no longer see problems as interruptions. Instead, dealing with problems becomes just another of life’s everyday chores, like flossing. As you do, you’ll also learn that most problems really aren’t as big as they may at first seem.

Problems are unavoidable — no matter how rich or famous you may be, you’ll have them — but what you can avoid is the emotional upheaval that comes along with facing an issue you immediately perceive to be a problem. The key is keeping things in perspective rather than seeing whatever goes wrong as a disaster.

In most situations, minor adjustments can make all the difference. OK, a tax audit may not feel that way, but the bottom line is that all they want is more money. And although it may set you back a bit, paying more won’t ruin your life.

Coping can be emotional, whether your problem is relatively minor or not. If something in your life goes wrong, it just makes sense that your feelings on many levels would be triggered, especially if the event could cause some uncomfortable changes or even damage.

Most of us want life to sort of float along without too many bumps in the road. Look, when you’re young, you want a sports car and you don’t mind the bumps so much. As you age, you desire more comfort, along with the flash and dash — that’s pretty normal. And after a lifetime of problems and bumps in the road, you may just get tired of dealing with them.

The other problem with problems is sometimes they meet and mate and create all kinds of little problems to go along with them, so ignoring them is not an option. If you don’t deal with what’s in front of you, then you will have a real problem, like a serious illness, and there may be no getting out of that one.

The answer here lies in adopting the attitude that there will always be problems that need solving, and making that attitude a part of your life, but not your entire life. I like to deal with issues in the morning, so I can move on to more pleasant things for the rest of the day. I can’t always control the timing, but I’ve found that this usually works for me. You will find your own pattern after a few tries.

I also try to divide my problems into two types: those that could kill me and those that are inconvenient or will cost me money. If it’s about inconvenience or money, I remind myself it’s not really a big deal, which keeps my emotions from running away with my mind.

We will always have problems, and if you do, it means you are alive and participating in life on planet Earth. No matter what, that’s better than the alternative. In the meantime, it does always help to talk with someone about what’s going on with you. Sometimes just saying it out loud gives you an answer and a new perspective.

(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)

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