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August 29, 2012
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
Great leaders leave indelible footprints in the passage of time, often spanning generations; unmistakable evidence, markers of where they have been.
Regardless of when, and where they walk, great men and women leave their footprints; revealing with clarity their spirit, courage and the direction they were going; along with encouragement to follow in their footsteps.
But in our own lives, why is it that some problems just seem intractable; incapable of being solved; and destined to remain obstacles that limit our progress or hinder relief from the challenges we face? Like going up a blind alley or a dead-end street, there appears to be no way out; no logical solution or way to overcome the problems.
I’m not referring to natural phenomena or circumstances quite beyond our control, but rather, those particular problems that flow from our own actions or decisions. These, after all, can be the most complex and resistant to resolution; problems of our own making; born out of our own choices.
Let’s look at some prerequisites to problem solving:
Solutions to tough problems will flow more readily when we are prepared to change our thinking; not just the ideas themselves, but our very thought processes and attitudes that either limit or leverage those thoughts.
Sometimes the solution requires dealing first with our pride, or the prejudices that restrict our progress; recognizing and dealing with the fact that we were wrong before addressing the actual problem itself. This can be really tough, but the simple act of recognizing that we are wrong is a powerful step in solving problems and releasing the potential in our lives. Proud people are usually people who won’t, by choice, see a solution for their problems.
Even once the keys to a solution are evident, we should be on guard against stubbornness or intransigence, as these traits will effectively stifle any problem resolution.
Pride will desensitize creativity.
Breaking free from the shackles of a major problem often involves seeking external help, since we can be incapable of even seeing the cause of our problems whilst in their grip. The essence of Footprints of Great Leaders lies in reaching out to those who have gone before us, who have dealt with like problems and can, by experience, reveal to us how to deal with our problems and challenges.
Distance from an issue, call it perspective or vision, can be a powerful ally when seeking a solution; as much as proximity to a problem can be our enemy. Our ability to collaborate and work with others who can shed light on our problems may be key to finding solutions. Sometimes we simply can’t see a solution for our problem, due to being too close to the problem.
Busyness impedes our vision.
There are of course some who are unable to see solutions due to a lack of education; an affliction for multiple millions of people globally; through no fault of their own; ensuring that the latent potential within them remains locked away, never to be released.
Further, no discussion on this matter would be complete without mentioning those for whom solutions are barred due to the influence of others who derive benefit from the ignorance of the afflicted.
Solutions for these people requires empowerment and resources from those with the capability to provide these; likely, this is you and I.
Both of these scenarios highlight people who are prevented from seeing a solution to their problems. To this end, illiteracy and injustice are the great challenges of our time, preventing millions from finding an end to the ravages of poverty, or oppression.
Ignorance and injustice deny potential.
Resistance to change is a debilitating condition that denies people the solutions they seek and locks them out of a world of potential; for solutions to our problems may mean adopting different mindsets, practices and allegiances.
Indeed, our willingness and ability to innovate, our readiness to abandon things that don’t work will separate us from those who are locked into the past and cannot change or move; who cannot move on from their problems.
Change and progress are synonymous.
Finally, we should not forget those whose manifold problems have become both a banner of honour and a request for sympathy and aid. Yes, some willingly wear their problems on their sleeves and will not countenance solutions even when they present themselves. For them, abandoning their issues equates to having to having to stand on their own feet and meet their own needs; perhaps this is a tough message for some, but some people actually don’t want to have their problems solved.
Unwillingness perpetuates our problems.
Great leaders understand that solving the problems of today and the future requires new thinking and a willingness to accept change.
The footprints of great leaders, who saw into the future and spanned generations, who have previously travelled our paths will often reveal simply, yet profoundly, how we should manage problems and find solutions.