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  • Sharon Borland

#26 Problems – Fact or Interpretation?

See problems differently and create new possibilities.

Sometimes it can seem that we’re surrounded by problems. They can cause us to experience all sorts of emotions and they can impact our wellbeing and achievements. Perhaps you’ve worked really hard to find a solution to a problem but just when you think you have a way forward, another problem or problems seem to appear! Eventually, it can lead to giving up on something because the problems seem too great to overcome.

Let’s consider what makes a problem a problem. Something happens – let’s call this a circumstance or set of circumstances. We react or respond to those circumstances. We might be trying to make sense of what’s happened, and what it means, either about something in our life or about ourselves. In effect, what we are actually doing is adding our interpretation to the circumstances. But there’s a trap here. It’s likely at times that we’re not clear about the facts associated with those circumstances. So, we work off assumptions, assertions, predictions or something else, to which we then add our own interpretations.

It’s common to end up with very few, if any, facts. Instead, the circumstances are just accepted as facts without further examination. Those unexamined circumstances then have interpretations added and this thing called a problem appears. If circumstances plus our interpretations combine to create this thing called a problem, then it seems important to get really clear about what facts are present.

Identifying facts, on the face of it, can sound quite simple, but that’s not been my experience. There are all sorts of reasons I may not necessarily want to address or acknowledge the facts. We’ll look more at this in the next blog. But for now, next time you encounter this thing called a problem, why not make a list of facts and then try to notice what interpretations you’re adding. Perhaps get a friend or colleague to help you work it through and help you bring a different perspective. By examining it thoroughly, you’re likely to open up new perspectives and new choices in your life.


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