The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.
Carl Jung

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein

The “Actualized Leader Profile” assesses you on the 9 characteristics of self-actualization, what I refer to as the 9 Attributes of Actualized Leaders, that create the 3 Sequences of Self Actualization. A summary that provides definitions and an overview of these may be found HERE. In addition to these 9 attributes, Abraham Maslow (who coined the term “self-actualization”) identified other personal characteristics that reside in individuals who are more self-actualized. The purpose of the next few blog entries will be to examine the characteristics that are not assessed in the ALP but that are critical for the process of actualizing our highest potential. The first of these is what Maslow referred to as being problem-centered.

Problem-centered individuals intently focus on the challenges in their lives to be solved. These individuals engage in three critical steps: 1. Acknowledge, 2. Accept, and 3. Adore.

First, self-actualizing individuals confront the facts of their situation and, in doing so, simply acknowledge that a problem does, in fact, exist. This may seem trivial, but I can assure you that it is not. So many times, individuals delude themselves into thinking that there is no problem, or that the problem resides with someone else, and, in doing so, they avoid reality. According to former BB&T Chairman and CEO John Allison, the process of psychological evasion is rampant, and, in his estimation, the only “unforgiveable sin” in leadership. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that you simply fail to notice or recognize an issue. Rather, psychological evasion occurs when you actively look the other way or ignore data that contradict your desires or wishes. So, if you want to develop a more problem-centered orientation, start by acknowledging the problems and challenges you currently face.

Second, you must accept the problem without taking it too personally. Maslow states that the opposite of problem-centered is self (or ego)-centered. Self-centered individuals experience their daily struggles and problems as personal to them, which in turn creates negative emotions such as fear, frustration and resentment. When these emotions are triggered, solving the underlying issue becomes more challenging and, in a sense, more personal. Maslow states that we should treat life’s difficulties as problems demanding solutions, not as personal troubles to be railed at, or surrendered to, in frustration.

Third, you must try to fall in love with or adore the problem. Uri Levine, the founder of the app Waze that was recently acquired by Google, discussed his approach to business. He states that if you want to be more successful and satisfied in any aspect of your life, professional or personal, you should “… fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” Too often, we create a solution that is less than optimal to the actual challenge we are facing. But because of our ego and insecurities, we “fall in love” with our solution and, consequently, close off any other possible avenues for solving the problem. When we fall in love with our problem, we not only own and accept it, we are better able to understand the underlying causes and, in doing so, identify effective and sustainable solutions.

Is there a current problem or challenge in your life that you are ignoring or evading?

Is there a current challenge you’ve accepted but taken too personally, and, as a result, allowed your ego to get in the way of solving the issue?

Is there a solution that you have fallen in love with that isn’t working? What would be available to you if you decided to revisit this challenge, and, in doing so, to declare your love for the actual problem instead of your solution?

Finally, Carl Jung states that our most challenging and difficult problems can never really be solved. Instead, they must be outgrown. Is there a challenge or pattern of consequences that has haunted you for some time now? Have you matured to a different place in your life?

Does that problem still exist, or have you outgrown it once and for all?