Quality Blog

Jim's Gems: Problems are Teaching Opportunities

August 4, 2014
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I think most people would agree that one of the greatest sources of stress is directly attributable to problems encountered in our personal and professional lives. To a certain degree this is true; however, a more accurate assessment is that the amount of stress we feel has more to do with how we relate to our problems than it does to the problems themselves. In other words, how much of a problem do we make of our problems? Do we see them as emergencies, or as potential teaching opportunities?

Problems come in many shapes, sizes and degrees of seriousness but the one commonality is that they all present us with something we wish were different. As if that’s not bad enough, the more we struggle with these problems, the worse they seem and, ultimately, the more stress they cause.

What is encouraging, however, is that the opposite also seems to be true. When we accept problems as an inevitable part of life and as opportunities to learn and grow, stress lessens, as though a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.

Many of us could benefit from learning a new approach to problems. Rather than push away the problem and resist it, try to embrace it. Ask yourself what valuable lesson can be learned from this problem. Whatever problems you are dealing with, chances are they could be thought of in a way that includes a genuine desire to learn valuable lessons.

Give this strategy a serious try and, I believe you will find that most problems aren’t the emergencies you thought they were when first confronted. Your stress level will decrease and you will find yourself more productive and, ultimately, more successful.

Deepak Chopra, the Indian-American philosopher, said “The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative and reflective — people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.”

It takes courage, determinatio, and confidence to face problems head on and move beyond them. While it's not always quick or easy, it is possible to learn; and in the end, the problems we overcome become our greatest teachers.




Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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