Why It’s Important to “Identify the Problem” (It’s Harder than It Sounds).

My Eighth Commandment is “Identify the problem.” This sounds like such an obvious thing to do – if you have a problem, of course you know what it is, right? – that it’s hard for me to explain why that commandment is so important.

Fact is, I’ve found that often I’ll suffer some mild annoyance or inconvenience for years, because I just don’t take the time to think about the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. I think this is a mindfulness problem -- not paying enough attention to what is actually happening in the present moment.

Yesterday afternoon, I experienced a perfect example. When I’m writing my book or my blog, I try to work outside my home office, at a library or a coffee shop, where it's easier to concentrate. Recently, for a variety of reasons, I’ve been doing more on-line tasks, so I’ve been spending a lot of time at my own desk.

I’d noticed over the past few weeks that my eyes and even my face felt funny – strained and tired. I just kept telling myself that it was nothing, no big deal.

Then yesterday, I told myself, “Identify the problem! Problem: my eyes and facial muscles are tired.”

Having acknowledged the problem for the first time, I asked myself, “Why do I have this problem?”

I answered: “My eyes are strained because there’s too much light coming in from the window behind my computer monitors. I have a shade, and it’s down, but it’s letting too much light through.”

“Aha!” I thought proudly. “I’ve identified the problem! Too much light. So how will I solve this?” Well, I thought, I could buy a big piece of poster-board and prop it against the window, or I could hang a sheet over the window. Then I noticed – I have a blind on my window, as well as an inner shade! I’ve never used it, and I’d completely forgotten that it was there. This whole time, all I needed to do was to lower the blind.

Problem solved. I feel like an idiot, but my eyes feel a lot better.

* Through Twitter, I just discovered the blog by Gwen Bell and am having a lot of fun cruising through it. Lots of great material there.

* If you haven't seen it yet, you might enjoy my one-minute movie, The Years Are Short.

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