Finding the Purpose in Problems

At the end of our street, facing a road with heavy traffic, sat a dilapidated eyesore of a house. Abandoned by its owner, the paint peeled and the window shutters dangled. At one point, the owner was fined by the city for the overgrown, weedy front yard. Whenever we drove by, I looked away, sad that this little Cape Cod house was dragging down property values for the rest of us.

Life’s problems are like this house. As long as we remain blind to the potential and purpose behind them, they appear like unwanted eyesores that deserve to be razed to the ground. Often we choose to complain about them. However, the more negative attention one gives to a problem (even in trying to eradicate it), the more the problem persists. Weeds in a property owner’s yard only cause strong anxiety if that person chooses to see them as a problem.

One day I saw construction crews working on the dilapidated house. Over the course of several weeks, the siding, roof and windows were replaced. Landscapers planted new grass and bushes in the front yard. Finally, a tall wooden fence was erected to block the house from the busy traffic. What was once an eyesore became a shining gem. I was tempted to peek inside the windows to imagine myself living there.

A real estate investor took inventory of that house and saw potential. Many people pass right by their problems without taking the time to look for the hidden potential.

The main purpose of our problems is to help us decide what we want by providing contrast to it, plain and simple. When an ongoing problem triggers strong negative thoughts and feelings, you can choose to complain, or you can choose to say: “Okay, as a result of this problem, I am thinking these particular thoughts and feelings, and this is not how I want to be thinking and feeling. But what do I want to be thinking and feeling? And how do I “think my way” there?”

Problems are a necessary part of life. They help us figure out what we need to be fulfilled and happy.

There is a Buddhist parable in which a farmer asks the Buddha to help him and begins to recount his many problems. After listening for a while, the Buddha says “I can’t help you.”

Aghast, he farmer snaps back, “But why?! You are the Buddha!”

The Buddha responds, “There are a number of basic problems that everyone has, but you have an extra one.”

“What is that?” the farmer asks.

The Buddha replies, “You think there should be no problems.”

Last week, I drove by that house and saw a family moving into it. The dilapidated old house at the end of our street had become a wonderful home.

Writing from my core,



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