seeking solutions … or not

Clients often come to me for solutions. And as a health coach, I always have more questions than answers for them!

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I started my work life as a teacher of Mandarin Chinese. My father was a linguist, and he and my mother both taught Russian at Middlebury College for most of their careers.

Yeah, correcting grammar was blood sport at our dinner table.

You might wonder how my first career connects to my health coaching practice—and it really does!

I often draw a parallel between teaching students to speak a foreign language and helping clients learn a new language around health.

It’s been shown that changing your words can rewire your brain and change your reality, so word play is a big part of what I practice with clients.

change your language

The simplest word game I teach is to replace the word “but” with “and.”

Think about a child who is pestering you while you’re trying to work and think about how different these two sentences sound:

  • I love you, but right now, you’re driving me crazy.
  • I love you, and right now, you’re driving me crazy.

“But” does not allow both ideas to exist at once: either I love you or I don’t.

“And” allows the two to exist simultaneously: I love you whether you are driving me crazy or not. “And” gives the sentence a much more positive energy—and it might save your child years of therapy down the line!

problems and opportunities

Another substitution I talk about a lot is using “opportunity” where you might want to insert the word “problem.”

I learned this when I was a grant writer: if you speak about a problem, it feeds our desire to FIX IT NOW and the idea that there is ONE SOLUTION; if you speak about an opportunity, you’re inviting more creativity into the room and making allowances for several equally valid solutions to surface.

Part of this really speaks to our instant gratification culture—and it really speaks to those of us, me included, who have a strong J streak in our Myers-Briggs profile.

As a complete aside, it might entertain you to know that I scored pretty even in 3 of the 4 areas. My percentages were 47/53, 48/52, or 49/51—that close! As for P/J though? I scored 98% J!

If you’re not familiar with these terms, what that means is that I like to gather information, make a decision, and take action on it.

Long discussions drive me nuts. Staff meetings? Mild torture. Staff retreats? Please put me out of my misery, NOW! (I made one of my workplaces rename them Staff Advances.)

We Js love a solution, preferably a quick, elegant, effective one. We’re probably more prone to becoming addicted to instant gratification—although that’s a total conjecture on my part.

Anyway, as so often happens, the final piece of the word puzzle came from a client—I’m always learning from my clients!

solutions to evolutions

Something I always emphasize to my clients is that we are never “broken”—and we don’t need “fixing.” We’re simply on a health journey, and we constantly get opportunities to make a better choice for our health.

A client and I were talking about her husband’s recent retirement from a job where he problem-solved all day, and how, now that he’s “underemployed,” she feels like he’s turning his energy to fixing her!

She reacted to his new occupation by telling him, “I don’t want to be fixed—I want to evolve!”

And there you have it. In logic terms, we’d say, problem : solution : : opportunity : evolution.

So I’m now going to suggest that we turn problems into opportunities and solutions into evolutions!

What does this reframe make possible?

I’m always looking for ways to reduce chronic stress, and it feels like “evolution” gives us a little space for grace—like we don’t have to FIX THAT PROBLEM RIGHT NOW!

We can sit back and let a situation unfold without jumping in to fix it.

And—haha, yes—that’s definitely a challenge for anyone who scores 98% J on Myers-Briggs. I’m thinking of taking it on as a new practice myself….

make the connection

I invite you to consider how reframing problems into opportunities and solutions into evolutions might help you, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or by email! And if you’re looking for some employee wellness solutions—er, evolutions—let’s find a time to talk!