Changing Perspective from "Problems" to "Constraints"

Guten Tag 

Back in Nepal from 2000-2010, the utilities that drove homes in Kathmandu were getting systematically and not-so-systematically worse. The water supply was erratic, meaning residents had to resort to adding actual pumps to pull water from the supply. That was completely illegal, of course, but so common the government didn't give a rat's tit about it. The power load management was also absolute shite, so that meant when the new decade came along, the residents in the capital city of the country had to bear a full blown 16-18 hr power outage. You had to literally wait, plan ahead and do everything you needed to do with electricity in that 4 hr, double shift window. 

While this all stemmed from bad planning, mismanagement and overall horseshit from what was basically a failed state trying to get its act together, I saw these as problems. I saw these as huge, huge problems. So imagine when I left Kathmandu and went straight to Seoul. The whole thing of "free flowing utilities" were an absolute shock for me. I was like "what do you mean you have 24hr uninterrupted power and water?" 

Turns out, that's how it should have been in the first place. 

Looking back, I do have huge respect for my family who decided to make Nepal their home. Could have gone anywhere else, but no, they wanted to be where their heart was. So much so, that all the problems that I was seeing as "problems" were just physical constraints to my parents. Constraints that were part and parcel of a normal functional life. No water for two days? that's a constraint. You adapt and deal with it. You harvest rain water. No stable electricity? You look alternative sources of energy. 

So what's really happening here? By merely shifting our perspective from problem to redefining whatever the "problem" is to being a constraint, things suddenly don't look as holy-shit-the-world-is-going-to-end-crisis as before. And this happens because our brain associates problems with things that are out of our control and negative while constraints as being simply...constraints. It's a positive outlook on the same issue. You internalize and accept that that's how it's going to be and move on. And when I say move on, you make that the baseline and start planning from there up. 

It's subtle yet so powerful. 

For instance, as a project manager, I have to constantly deal with a number of psychological, relationship-oriented dynamics in the team. One person forms a good partnership with the other but that also means things can go the other direction. Humans are, in fact, primarily emotional creatures, not rationale. So there's no surprises there. Not only that, you have conflicts arising with scheduling, PCBs on arriving on time, people not showing up on time and all these nuts and bolts that supposed to create a basis for a successful project. 

One way to approach this is to see it as a problem. Tackle as a problem. That also means using brute force at times to bring back to what I think should be the "normal." For instance, apply stricter rules based on reward/punishment for showing up on time or not. Another approach is to see it as a constraint. So instead of thinking of what an ideal normal should look like, you make the situation THE new normal. Then start ways to sort out the issue. Going back on showing up late thingy, accept that people are going to show up on time but find ways to help them improve on their baseline time that they appear. Ways then could be to ask them if they could go home earlier, or buying them an alarm clock or even appearing in front of their door step like a creepy, stalk-y manager. 

It's way, way less stressful when there's just a small switch between seeing the same thing as a problem to a constraint. Because, ultimately, you are responsible for your mental state and no one else is. 


Popular Posts