“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” - Soren Kierkegaard
I love solving problems. So much, in fact, that I want to devote my career to problem-solving for companies. Whether I end up pursuing consulting, design, analytics, entrepreneurship, or some combination, I will essentially be spending my waking hours discovering and fixing problems. And I wouldn’t want it any other way – problem solving is deeply intertwined with creativity and purpose. My brain craves a central motivating challenge to occupy my thoughts as I go through the world.
But I wonder if my focus on problems will ever detract from my presence in everyday encounters. How can I “live in the moment” while studying the past to create the future? If there is always a new problem to solve, will I ever be able to rest in a sense of enough? That I’ve done enough, contributed enough? That I am not a problem to be solved?
This past fall while studying abroad in Bologna, Italy, I loved the variety and freshness of every city I visited. However, while taking easier classes and removed from my rhythm of busyness at Santa Clara University, I struggled to find a problem to solve! I looked left and right. Should I be thinking about next summer? Personal branding? Creating a website? Learning a new skill? Sure, I could enjoy walks around Bologna’s ancient cobblestone streets, practicing my Italian, eating pasta again, but those activities felt a bit empty after a few months.
Ultimately, I think the answer is not a 50-50 balance of “solving” and “being,” but a full fusion of the two each day. I can begin the day rooted in my identity, open to serendipity and seeking to listen to others. Problem-solving can become what I love to do, not who I am. And prioritizing presence with people, be they coworkers, clients or friends, can lead me to new ideas in my work.
I may never fully be able to separate problem-solving and presence. But I can continue to learn that although I want to spend much of my life creating solutions that move the world forward, my life is not a problem. I am not in a state of failure until I meet my ever-expanding goals. My life is much more like a day in a theme park – endless options, sometimes tiring, lots of mundane lines, a few roller-coasters, and ultimately about the people I experience it with.