What would you give to be problem free – to have no difficulties with your health, finances, relationships, or work? An enticing concept, but we all know that problems are inevitable. And most of us spend a good chunk of our day resolving problems as they pop up or mauling over the lingering ones. With the more complex problems, we can easily become emotionally drained in the process of trying to find some sort of resolution. In our attempts to solve these problems, we may inadvertently let them bleed into other parts of our lives. This is when our emotions come into play.
Let’s take the case of Jenny and Paul…
Jenny’s husband, Paul, was fired from his job three months ago. He had a good career as an assistant manager at a local retail store. Given Paul’s work history and skills, Jenny was confident that he would get his next job within weeks. During the first month at home, Paul was sending out resumes and going to job interviews. However, as time went on, Paul settled into playing video games and drinking cheap beer to all hours of the night. He lost interest in finding a job. As a bank teller, Jenny’s salary alone wasn’t enough to pay the bills. Paul and Jenny borrowed money from family members, and Jenny even took out a loan from her bank. By the third month, Paul and Jenny were fighting a lot about Paul’s destructive behavior. Jenny felt a mixture of emotions towards Paul, including anger, resentment, concern, and sadness. At work, she started to arrive late and to take her frustrations out on her co-workers and the customers. At first Jenny’s boss was understanding, but this quickly changed following her third customer complaint.
By taking her problems at home into the workplace, Jenny has essentially compounded matters by jeopardizing her job.
It’s bad enough that we have problems. How can we stop compounding them?
A Problem Tree offers just what we need. So, how does it work?
This imaginary tree stands at the entrance of your workplace, your bedroom, and other key places in your life. It is your special tree to hang the burden of specific problems from one area that threaten to compound your life in another. Before entering your workplace with your problems from home, simply hang your problems on the tree outside your work. This will free you to greet your time at work with a fresh perspective and a more positive approach. You can reverse this process from work to home. Before entering your home, drape your work problems on the tree just outside your entrance and unburden yourself from the worries that come with them. Feel free to use this tactic when entering your bedroom at night or before doing other comparable activities.
Compartmentalizing your problems will not resolve them, but it will prevent you from compounding other important aspects of your life. In all cases, be aware. The problems you hang on the trees will always be waiting for you to pick up when you leave. Nobody is going to steal them. Guaranteed!
Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College in Southern California.
She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member for BSU. Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.