Reality Check: The Treasure Hunt

Humans have problems. As I’m interested in helping folks overcome problems, I look for information on problem-solving. In a recent article, “The Obstacles of Everyday Problem Solving,” author James J. Rooney connected problem-solving and treasure-hunting. How might treasure-hunting help with problem-solving?

When we think of problems, we often feel bleak and discouraged. “Oh dear, yet another problem. Life is just one problem after another…” Do you know that feeling?

Now, think about hunting for treasure. Or solving a puzzle. Or figuring out the clues to a mystery. That’s a different feeling, isn’t it? It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s not dull and depressing like problem-solving.

Yet, the difference is largely in the mindset. Hunting for treasure, deciphering the clues to a mystery, solving a puzzle; they are all problem-solving!

It might sound like we’re just playing word games. However, the perspective you bring to a situation (or a problem) can make the difference between whether the “hunt” is satisfying and comes to a successful conclusion or whether it’s a futile waste of effort.

Joel feels like he has been spinning his wheels for a long time. He dropped out of school and worked for a few years. From that experience, he’s learned that if he wants to do better than minimum wage, he needs to get a real career. But what?

This problem has long-term consequences, and Joel doesn’t know how to solve it. His girlfriend is encouraging but she can’t really help him. He’s made no headway by haphazardly browsing career websites. He feels like he’s groping around in the dark, and he’s afraid of making a mistake and wasting both money and time.

The uncertainty has been getting both of them down. It’s to the point where discussion leads to argument, and even thinking leads to frustration.

So here are a few of Rooney’s tips for treasure hunters…and for Joel.

  • Believe in the treasure. In Joel’s case, the “treasure” is a career choice that will work for him. The treasure is worth going after and it is possible to find it. You may as well believe, because what is the value in believing otherwise?
  • Develop a treasure attitude. For Joel, with career choice as the treasure, start looking at everything through the lens of, “Can this help me choose a career?” Everyone is a potential source of information. Ask questions: “What do you do? How did you get into this work?”
  • Follow through. As you learn about interesting possibilities, do the research necessary to solve your particular problem. For Joel, what would it take to become a chef? A welder? An archaeologist? Are there jobs? Where? What do they pay? And so on.

Whether the problem is the search for a career choice, a soul-mate, a workplace, or the meaning of your life, perceiving it as a treasure hunt could help. Folks spend hours on end playing games and solving puzzles; why not make your next puzzle one of hunting a real treasure—to solve a real problem in your life?

How do you approach problem-solving? Does your approach work well for you?

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