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Why You Don't Have A Problem. Seriously

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

What if you don't have a problem? What if smoking, drinking too much, overeating, being anxious, not feeling good enough, being afraid of snakes/birds/the ocean... - whatever it is you're struggling with, isn't a problem?

What's that? It certainly feels like a problem, you're thinking? Why yes, it does. (Don't ask how I can read your mind. It's just a gift.) And I'm not saying it's not important to you to resolve this thing, I'm not saying it's not hurting and I'm certainly not downplaying it. But thinking of it as a problem hasn't helped, has it? How do I know that, you're thinking? (He's doing it again!) Easy: you're still reading. If you'd fixed it, you'd have gone off and done something else by now.

So instead of thinking of what you're doing that you want to change as a problem, what I want to suggest is this. Is it possible that what you're coping with is not a problem, but instead a solution that's no longer working?

That begs two questions: (a) what the hell are you talking about? and (b) even if that's true, so what?

What the hell I'm talking about is this. Let's use smoking as an example, because I've just this moment spoken to a gentleman who's booked in to see me to stop smoking because he's 'sick of it' and 'doesn't want to do it any more.' Now until we have our first session I won't know for sure, but it seems to me that it's highly likely that his smoking was doing a job. It could be coping with boredom, or trying to fit in with the other blokes as an apprentice, or getting a break from his computer every hour, or giving himself a rebellious reward... As I say, we don't yet know what job the smoking was doing.

But what we can confidently predict is that the job the smoking was doing is no longer worth it. It may be the cost (financial, health-wise), it may be other things. But something's happened to tip the balance, so that the reward is no longer worth the cost. The balance has shifted enough that he's taking action.

In other words, it's likely that this gentleman doesn't have a 'problem,' but instead a solution that's no longer working.

Well whoop-di-do. Aren't you the clever one. Suddenly the client doesn't have a problem, but he's still smoking. To repeat the second question this little blog has prompted: so what?

Here's so what. If you have a problem, you're trying to get rid of it. More than 90% of all the smokers I've ever seen have known all the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things about smoking. I won't repeat them here, because they're boring. You know them. I know them. They're plastered all over the packaging in garish eye-stabbing detail. And I doubt they've stopped many people from smoking.

But very, very few smokers have known why smoking is so good. And it is. That's why they do it! It's important to know why smoking is good for you, because that way you can start to answer what they were solving. And if you know what they were solving, you can find an alternative. Need a break from your computer? Guess what - a five minute walk around the block does the job just as good as a gasper. Sitting there missing your ciggy certainly won't get that job done. Need to not be bored? I don't know if you knew, but there's this new thing called an iPhone and it has about a squillion boredom-killing lilttle jobbies on it called 'apps.' And so on...

So there you have it. My theory as to why people smoke is it's because it's doing a job for them. And my theory as to why people so often try to stop and don't succeed, is because they don't have an alternative. So now instead of one 'problem' (smoking), they have two (I'm dying for a fag; and I'm still bored). If instead you understand what job the smoking's doing, and come up with an alternative solution, then I reckon you've got the chance to look for alternatives to do the same job.

Be like that gentleman. Give me a call and tell me you want to change. Then we can take it from there.

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