Responsibility: The Crucial Ingredient for Understanding Your Problems
6 min read

Responsibility: The Crucial Ingredient for Understanding Your Problems

A convoluted path from problem to solution with responsibility as the key.

If you want to solve your problems, you need to take responsibility for them.

Taking responsibility simply means responding to a problem. In other words, do something that responds to it. This can take various forms. You can read a book to learn more about your problem. You can pick a potential solution from your toolbox and try to solve the problem. Or you can take pen to paper and write to clearly define the problem. The right action almost always depends on your individual circumstances, strengths, and personality.

But what doesn't depend on these factors is that you need to take responsibility.

Last week, I sent you a letter in which I explained why responsibility is a superpower.

In this letter, I want to build on the last. I want to explain why you need to take responsibility for your problems if you want to solve them.

So, let's begin.

If You Can't Respond to A Problem You're Stuck With It

If you have a problem that you can do nothing about, you don't have the opportunity to solve it.

Instead, you're stuck with it. If a problem isn't solved, it has time to grow. If it grows, it can get big and if it gets big it can cause suffering. If you don't solve the problem the suffering will increase. If you're exposed to a lot of suffering for long enough you will get resentful, spiteful, and evil. Thus, being unable to respond to a problem is extremely bad for you.

That's why avoiding your problem, making excuses for it, and blaming other people for it is so destructive: It shifts the ability to respond from you to them and leaves you powerless. One of the only things you can do then is complain and complaining is not useful to solve your problems.

To avoid this, always look for ways that you can respond to a problem. This puts you back in control of solving it and empowers you to do something about the problem. That's fundamentally good because it cuts off the cycle of complaining, blaming, and avoidance at its root: Shifting responsibility from you to someone else.

If You Respond to a Problem, You Can Solve It in The Most Beneficial Way

Another reason why you need to take responsibility for your problems is that it gives you the opportunity to solve them in a way that is most likely to contribute to the creation of the life you want.

If you shift the responsibility for your problems to other people they might solve some of your problems, but they won't know nor care about how they do it. As a result, their solutions will most likely not align with creating the life you want. Best case: they solve it pretty well and you have to do some adjusting later. Worst case: they solve it so it creates more problems later or in a way that the solution falls apart after a while.

If you want to use your problems as a springboard toward a better future, it's better if you solve them. Not only will it prevent bad solutions or solutions that don't align with your ideal future but it will also help you become someone who can solve problems.

If You Solve Your Problems You Increase Your Problem-Solving Ability

There's an old saying which goes something like:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

The idea behind this quote is that you should teach people the skill of problem-solving instead of solving their problems for them. Teaching them how to solve a problem equips them with the knowledge, skills, and wisdom to solve this problem repeatedly on their own. It makes them more competent and self-reliant. Solving their problems for them doesn't teach them much and keeps them dependent on you.

When you solve your problems yourself, you learn a lot about how to solve problems in general. This is another benefit of responding to your problems instead of shifting the responsibility for them to someone else. Others might solve your problem once, but if it reappears you're none the wiser and can't solve it on your own. In the worst case, this makes you depend on the help and support of others forever and gets you far away from the life you want.

Solving Problems Compounds

Let's build on this insight. When you solve a problem you increase your ability to solve problems in general. The clue is that this process of becoming better at solving problems compounds.

If something compounds it gets exponentially better the more you do it.

What does this mean in regards to taking responsibility for your problems? It means that the more problems you solve, the better you get at solving problems. The better you get at solving problems, the easier problem-solving becomes for you. As you solve more problems, you get better at solving problems.

This process repeats endlessly and gets better every time.

Let's look at this in detail:

If you solve a problem you learn a lot of important things:

You learn why the problem existed.
You learn how you were able to solve it.
You learn what worked as expected and what didn't.
You learn what was important in solving it and what was just a distraction.
You learn which mistakes you made and why you made them.
You correct false assumptions, beliefs, and habits that contributed to the problem.
So on and so forth.

In short: You gain a lot of insights.

These insights compound!

The more problems you solve, the more insights you gather. These insights help you solve new problems in a better way. You discover reliable ways in which you can solve certain problems. You also discover ways that don't work for you and that you can safely discard. Over time these insights become like rocks in a sea of problems. They provide a solid ground that you can return to again and again whenever you want to solve a new problem.

Here's a more concrete example:

Let's say you have a problem with not exercising. While you do the work to understand this problem you learn that it's related to crushing expectations. Having learned this, you reduce your expectations and make your workouts easier. This solves the problem and you begin to exercise regularly.

Then, you want to learn how to write better. You usually did this by trying to write essays. But you often get stuck halfway through. When you start to understand this problem you realize that you have high expectations here, too. Applying the insight you've learned from solving your exercise problems, you lower your expectations. You start by writing short tweets instead of long essays. This increases how many words you write and rekindles your lost joy for writing. Every now and then one tweet sounds so good that you want to turn it into an essay. You do just that and find yourself publishing more essays than before.

Do you see how the lessons you've learned from solving one problem helped you solve another?

This is the power of compounding at work.

The more problems you solve, the more insights about your problems and potential solutions you gather. These insights make it easier to solve other problems. Then the loop repeats.

Solving Problems Yourself Feels Really Good

Take a moment and think about a time when you solved a seemingly big problem all by yourself. Picture the situation you were in, think back to the problem, and now feel how you felt when you solved it.

I bet you felt awesome. You felt proud of yourself. You realized you were stronger than you thought and feel energized to keep going. That's the power that taking responsibility for your problems can give you. Nothing else can give you that power.

Solving your problems feels really good. It feels satisfying. Mostly, because it's undeniable evidence that we're moving closer to the life we want. This gives us motivation, resilience, and competence.
Another thing it gives us is hope.

Hope for a better future. People who avoid responsibility are often hopeless. How could they not be if they can't respond to their problems and constantly need to rely on others to move forward? But, if you want to live a happy, fulfilling, and good life you need hope. It's the lifeblood of progress, meaning, and satisfaction. If you have no hope, you're damned to a life of misery. Solving problems successfully gives you hope for a better future.

Lastly, solving your problems makes you calmer, too. It gives you peace of mind. You experience firsthand, that you can rely on yourself. That you're capable, and that you can steer your life toward the life you want.

Solving problems successfully creates evidence of competence that gives you confidence. And this inspires you to keep moving forward into your ideal future.


Now, let's tie this back to what we've discussed in past letters so far:

If you want to understand your problems, you need to commit to truth. Then you need to become aware of your problems and genuinely want to solve them. Now you need to take responsibility for solving them.

We've discussed the last step today for one more crucial reason:

You can do all the other steps and still fail to understand or solve the problem.

You can commit to truth and become aware of a problem. Then you can want to solve it. But then choose not to respond to it.

Then, all the wanting, awareness, or truthful analysis of your problem won't get you anywhere.

That's why I hope that the five reasons above, along with my letter from last week, make it clear why taking responsibility for your problems is so important.

The more responsibility you take, the better and easier you can solve your problems.

The more you do that, the closer you get to the life you want.

Create Your Ideal Future

Understand who you are, unlock your potential, and create your ideal future with my weekly letters.