How to be Happier: Identify the Problem.

CoathookOne of my Twelve Commandments is to “Identify the problem.” Often I’ll put up with a minor problem or an irritation for years, simply because I haven’t taken a minute to consider the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. This rule seems so obvious that I’m surprised that it has proved so tremendously helpful. Nevertheless, it has.

Here’s an embarrassing example. I was always slightly annoyed by my need to run around the apartment getting this or that—a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, some aspirin. Finally, light dawned, and I realized that due to my love of clearing clutter, I’d become an over-consolidator. (I’m also an abstainer and an under-buyer.)

What’s an over-consolidator?

I’d consolidated all the tools in the toolbox, all the scissors in the office-supply drawer, all the medicine in the medicine cabinet. But in fact, this is NOT a good idea. Some items SHOULD be spread around. I put a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and a bottle of aspirin in the kitchen. In fact, I bought some extra bottles of aspirin, so that I could have them in various places, and I scattered scissors throughout the apartment. How did I not figure this out earlier?

Another silly example. For years, I never hung up my coat, but then seeing my coat lying around would bug me. Finally I asked myself, “Why don’t I hang up my coat?” Answer: “I don’t like fussing with hangers.” Then I saw the solution! Now I hang my coat on a hook, instead. Problem solved. It was truly that easy.

So whenever I feel fretful, I instruct myself, “Identify the problem.” Have you ever discovered an obvious solution to a long-standing problem in this way?

The days are long, but the years are short.