Why Problems are “Good.”
And How to Cultivate This Mindset
As daunting news, uncertainty, and unexpected personal blows have become our new norm, the question becomes: How do we cope in a way that’s beneficial for our mental health?
About five years ago, I got my shit together. The people that knew me before would probably tell you that I did a complete 180. What really happened was I pulled myself out of victim mode. I had been using all of the bad things that had happened to me as an excuse to give up and not really try in life. Literally, no growth was happening. I was probably even going backward. And I was tired of watching people around me pursue dreams and careers while I stood still.
The secret I learned was to take ownership, including the good AND the bad that came my way. It’s essentially a mindset shift. Instead of going into “poor me” mode, I shifted into “how can I learn from this” mode. Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL officer and overall badass, had one response when his SEALs would come to him with problems: “Good.”
Jocko believes that when things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that comes from it.
From the Jocko podcast:
Oh, the mission got canceled? Good… We can focus on another one.
Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good… We can keep it simple.
Didn’t get promoted? Good… More time to get better.
Didn’t get funded? Good… We own more of the company.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good… Go out, gain more experience, and build a better resume.
Got injured? Good… Needed a break from training.
Got tapped out? Good… It’s better to tap out in training than tap out on the street.
Got beat? Good… We learned.
Unexpected problems? Good… We have to figure out solutions
This lesson was further cemented in my brain after my first Tony Robbins seminar. He told us again and again that life is happening FOR you, not TO you, and it’s your job to figure out where the lesson is.
In every bad situation, there’s an opportunity to learn. I know I wouldn’t be able to connect with people like I do if it hadn’t been for the things I went through in my childhood. I learned from a young age that everyone is battling their own demons, even if that person appears happy on the outside.
This mental shift toward “ownership” probably won’t be easy the first time you try it. We’re oftentimes rewarded with sympathy and attention in our society for going into victim mode, and it feels good. Some people like to commiserate with other unhappy people, and you might have friends start to look at you funny when you begin to take ownership. Trust me when I tell you it’s because you’re doing something right. It's going to scare people that haven’t taken ownership of their own lives yet.
Try this: the next time you encounter a problem and catch your thoughts going into a “why me/poor me” spiral, stop, do some sort of physical activity (a walk, a run, a workout, dance around to your favorite songs), and then come back to the situation. Take a few deep breaths (four counts inhale, four counts hold at the top, four counts exhale) and allow yourself to believe that there is a lesson somewhere in this. Get excited about that lesson, because we usually have the biggest growth in times of pain, and then start to brainstorm ways to help yourself out. I did this multiple times over the course of quarantine and had deep mental shifts that have been creating a positive ripple effect in my daily life.
Like everything else, taking ownership is a skill. You will get better at it. It will become easier to see the possible good in the moment and not only when you’re looking back years later.
And besides, if there was never any bad, how could there be any good?
“I think that in order to truly experience the light and the bright, you have to see the darkness. I think if you shield yourself from the darkness, you’ll not appreciate—and fully understand—the beauty of life.” —Jocko
Start with this mindset, and let me know where the rest of your week takes you.