Not every problem is solvable: tackle or ignore

When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves. Anthony J. D’Angelo

Life often involves a lot of solving problems. Problems, sometimes, just keep on coming and never seem to stop. But sometimes, we might waste many hours and a lot of energy on trying to solve problems that cannot be solved.

Accept that not every problem can be solved. This comes with additional caveats. Not every problem can be solved by you. Not every problem can be solved right now. And finally, not every problem needs to be solved.

What does this mean?
When faced with a problem, our first instinct is to try and solve it. But before we do that, a good practice is to ask ourselves if the problem is something that requires our involvement. Does it concern you or is it primarily another person’s problem?

Do you have the tools to solve it? If not, maybe it’s better to discard the problem outright and not worry about it.

The second set of questions is to ask whether it’s a problem you will be able to solve now. Some issues might be out of scope for the present but become more solvable with time, when we have more resources. Not everything needs to be pursued right away. You can also allow the problem to just be there until its time comes. Not everything is urgent.

Not every problem can be solved at all. There are global problems, beyond your reach. There are personal problems that might not be possible to solve and need to be worked around.

We often are taught that we should never quit until we solve the problem in front of us. But sometimes the best solution is to know when to discard it outright.

When are problems more likely to fit in the discard category? When they don’t depend on you or not fully depend on you, for instance. When the problem is not urgent and not really important enough to affect your life. When you don’t have tools to solve it and won’t have tools to solve it in the short term.

Sure, this doesn’t mean that the problem will just go away. You might need to come back to it sooner or later. But letting it be for now is also a valid option in many situations.