50 shades of problem solving

Sorry for the cheap reference, but I think it’s appropriate in this case. Nothing is white or black (except colors, of course) it’s only our perception.  The simplest way to be frustrated by life is to see things in black or white.  Sometimes, it appears that we have already solved that problem, but then it comes back again.

We tend to think that the way to success is kind of a straight line with some minor detours, when in reality, successful people are the first ones to admit that it took several iterations, a lot of tries and failures and some minor wins here and there.


Before studying my master degree, Polarity was a term only related to batteries. Then, I learned about this Polarity Management theory used in social science to solve problems.  I learned that when people are frustrated with something, they tend to compare their situation with an ideal one, which is the equivalent of comparing your backstage with someone’s final presentation.   The moment when we’re more disappointed and frustrated is usually the moment when we compare ourselves with successful people, but we don’t know all the work it took for them to achieve what they got.

We  also become frustrated when we think in absolute terms and things don’t work out the way we expect them to. For example, everyone knows that teamwork is a great way to achieve things, as it brings everyone’s talents to the table and create synergies.  We also know that individual initiative and creativity can generate amazing results. Genius is the work of just one person. However, we cannot resolve every problem using only teamwork or working individually only. If we want to do it, we’re only seeing nails when we’re holding a hammer. 

When we’re solving a problem, we forget the nuances of the problem and we want to stick with just one way of seeing (and approaching) the issue. When we do this, we forget that the two sides are interdependent and that everything has a positive and a negative side.

For example, in an office environment, we have people who are very independent and like to work by themselves, without supervision. We have also the other type of people, who are constantly verifying they’re doing what is expected by checking with their managers. If we feel constrained by our managers and we say we prefer to be left by ourselves, we tend to idealize the opposite situation,  forgetting that both alternatives have a positive and a negative side.


Polarities are the contrast that help us perceive the complex reality of a situation. Polarity Management is helpful when you find yourself in a “this or that” decision: when you feel the need to choose between two seemingly divergent “poles”.  To manage polarities we need to:

-Identify the two different sides

-List the pros and cons of side A and side B

-Ask ourselves what would we achieve if we could we maximize the pros of both options, and minimize the cons.  That would bring a higher goal, instead of a polarized discussion or analysis.


1. Pick any “either/or” problem you’re currently having.  Use a sheet of paper, draw a line in the middle horizontally, and another one, vertically, creating 4 quadrants.

2. Write the list of positive effects of side 1 in the top left, the negative effects of side 1 in the bottom left, and do the same for side 2.


Disappointment happens when we contrast the negative quadrant of one side, like B, with the positive quadrant of the other one, C.  We always try to move from B to C, but as both poles have positive and negative sides, the contrast and the polarity will always be present in our lives.

3. Try to find an alternative solution that minimizes the negative quadrants, instead of focusing on Pole 2 only; if you do this, the quadrant D will bring again more disappointment. 

Manifesting your dreams

Some days ago someone asked about the differences between a fantasy and manifesting our dreams.  For me a fantasy is not guided, it’s something that happens in our mind without thinking. It’s an expression of our desires but it is very unlikely to happen in real life.

Manifesting, on the other hand, is a tool you can use to achieve our dreams. It helps your wish, idea or dream to come to life. Manifesting may sound weird, unusual or even esoteric to you, but it has very real components. In Jungian psychology, that component is called Synchronicity, the tendency of the universe to  create patterns (Eastern philosophies call it Tao). Synchronicity, as Jean Shinoda Bolen defines it, is a descriptive term for the link between two events that are connected through meaning,  a link that cannot be explained by cause and effect.

Manifesting something is spiritual work that happens along with your physical work. This means that although some things may just “appear” in your life, you likely need to work to achieve most of your dreams.


How do you do it?

The steps for manifesting are deliberated and precise:
*Dream/envision what you want – create a mental picture
*Use spoken words to define your ideal situation – taking care of not putting limits to the Spirit and or describe how things will happen
*Trust the Spirit –  You know that what you asked for will be granted, and you behave as if you have it already, as this is where your energy is focused
*Understand that you are an expression of the Divine and interconnected with everything and everyone. You deserve what you want and know that this is a world of abundance
*Repeat the affirmation for some time every day (I do it for a month) until it resonates within you
*Finally, keep this process private (do not share it with others, as this will “dilute” your energy) and let go!

Working with affirmations has to be aligned with what happens in your day-to-day life. It means that if I’m affirming that I want to be promoted at work, I need to show up and do my best. If I want to lose weight, I need to eat in a healthy way and exercise.  Affirmations are not a “magical substitute” for work but rather the work that our minds and spirit do to support us in reaching our goals and make the process easier. Affirmations are one of the sources of these amazing “coincidences” that happen from time to time.

What is the different between using affirmations or not?

When you use affirmations the Spirit knows what you want. As a friend of mine says, you don’t go to a store and simply say: I don’t want purple curtains. You have to say what you want!

Each person holds different beliefs about this topic, my opinion is that the best way to achieve something or receive a gift from the Universe is being very clear on what we want. Even if you don’t believe that the Spirit or the Universe provide you with what you need, you know that you receive millions of stimuli every day and your mind needs to know  which ones are relevant for you and focus on them. Perhaps you haven’t paid attention to the gifts you have received in this way yet.


Write down a simple affirmation, something that you would like to happen by the end of next month: could be a work-related goal, a personal one, something you truly would like to achieve. Put it on the mirror, your reader, as a reminder in your computer or wherever you find it every day. Repeat it for at least the rest of the month or until you achieve it.  Then, be thankful and give something back; the Universe loves gratitude.  Prepare to be amazed by the results!

Handling stress in a positive way

Some days ago I had the chance to attend an event that made me reflect on the importance of dealing with stress in a positive way: one of the organizers was really affected by stress, to the point where she fell sick. The other organizer, a friend of mine, was very concerned when the person who was sick didn’t show up on time. When I noticed that my friend was becoming more agitated I offered my help. We devised a plan in case her partner didn’t show up and that really helped my friend to ease her feelings and get back on track. Just by having a plan, and the reassurance that things can be fixed, we feel relieved.

We have all heard that there are two types of stress, and while both have an impact in our mind and body, only one of them actually helps us. It’s known as Eustress, and it appears when we’re in demanding and challenging situation which we are capable of handling. It’s the sense of thrill and excitement we have when working on new projects, or competing.  It can motivate us to achieve something and it brings enthusiasm.

The negative stress, Distress, is the one we identify more often. In general it causes emotions and feelings such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, unhappiness, and eventually illnesses.


My advice is really simple:  If there is something you can do to fix the situation, do it. If there is nothing that can be done, just relax. Plan for the worse and hope for the best, and then just let things happen, but more importantly, take action as soon as you can.

Remember that all problems start small, and that as Corrie ten Boom says “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” When we’re stressed, we don’t enjoy the moment, the beauty of the present. 

 And if you see someone struggling with a stressful situation, step forward, show up, offer your help.  This person will be grateful and that will improve the situation enormously. Sometimes, just by acknowledging a difficult situation, we help other people relax. 


1. Identify the situations that are currently causing you Distress.

2. Identify three possible actions you can take right now to work through the situation. They don’t have to be major actions, but rather simple steps that you can take immediately.

3. Identify one or two friends/relatives/colleagues that can support any of your actions, if needed.

4. Contact them and ask for help, if it applies. It will give them the opportunity to be closer with you and it will give you the chance to finally solve what is affecting you.

Moving through change

As I mentioned in this post, learning how to move through the different stages is key in our developing process. Knowing how to move forward to acceptance instead of staying stuck in depression or hostility is the only way to be happy. Our lives are full of challenges and disappointment, otherwise they would be really boring.

To move forward we need to start where we are. We cannot wait until we feel in a “better place” to do it. This means we need to exercise, to go out and talk with people, to stop licking our wounds.  Yes, you might be tired, hurt, sad, but the only way to move forward is to move out of your comfort zone. I know it’s easier said than done, but we all need to do it, nonetheless.

Then, we need to do whatever we can. Not everyone can afford a luxury trip, or pay for the best therapist in the world, and the best of it, it’s that we don’t need to. Exercise and Nature are the easiest and cheapest forms of therapy. You don’t need a lot of equipment to go jogging or sit in a park.

Finally, we need to learn to be grateful. You cannot feel sad if you’re grateful. This might sound as a cheap advice, but the truth is that you have been blessed with friends, family, life.  If you’re able to read this, you have received more blessings than half of the world, at least. Stephen Hawking was once asked if he would change anything in his life, he answered he couldn’t imagine how he could be happier.


When we’re sad we’re living in the past; when we’re stressed we’re living in the future. The best way to ensure happiness is to live in the present: right here, right now. 


Now, write down a list of 3 blessings you have received this month; and each day, imagine that only the things that you’re grateful for, will be given to you tomorrow.

Our inner voice

A great advice I heard about parenting is: Watch the words you use with your kids, as it will later become their inner voice.

I spent over 10 years fighting against the judgement I received when I was growing up. And although in the process of doing it, I acquired and honed more knowledge and skills, I also acquired fears and self-doubt. A lot of the habits I have now, are consequence of what my inherited inner voice tells me.

During the last decade, I have seen how amazing people – people I thought were incredibly gifted – felt unsure, flawed or irrelevant.  And in the same way that Prof. Chamine explains, I had the opportunity to reflect on how important it is for happiness and success, to recover our self-esteem.


To prevent sabotages in our lives, we need to pay attention to our inner voice and encourage our sage to speak up. We cannot just ignore these voices, we need to understand what they’re telling us and where are they coming from and then address them.


As we know, the knowledge is useless if it doesn’t impact our actions, so, I’d like to invite you write down the 3 most important things that have been sabotaged by your inner critics.

Now, add the 3 usual messages your inner critic (or saboteur) says to you.  Identify what’s the intention of this critic and the emotion behind it. Now, think of what someone who you admire would say to encourage you. Finally say these words to yourself as often as you needed them.

Here is an example of one of them:

Situation: I’m  creating an online course that will be part of my signature program.

Critic voice: Don’t even worry doing this. It’s a lot of work and no one will buy it.

Intention: I’m self-doubting, I don’t want to risk myself.

Emotion: Fear

Positive Message:  You have something positive to share. This work will inspire people to change and inspire you to take more challenges!

Take action and get rid of your inner critics, you can get the life you want!

Love yourself and love the world

“When it comes to Love,
you need not fall but rather surrender,
surrender to the idea that you must love yourself
before you can love another.
You must absolutely trust yourself
before you can absolutely trust another
and most importantly you must accept your flaws
before you can accept the flaws of another.“
~ Philosophy: Falling in Love


Loving someone (not just feeling the physical attraction) is always a difficult process. We need to love ourselves before being able to truly love other people. We need to surrender to Love and do what our mind desperately says it’s dangerous: trade our comfort and safety for the unknown.

To love ourselves is to make peace with our mind. We often hear its voice in the form of our parents’ voices saying we’re not good enough, we don’t work hard enough, or we don’t deserve what we want.  We need to learn to forgive and accept ourselves, to be able to forgive and accept others and remember that we come from Love and we go towards Love.

The Change Process

The map is not the territory but, God, it helps!

Lacking clarity is one of the first obstacles to change. We face the unknown every single day, but we tend to approach life in very small steps that allow small room to chaos. We try to predict outcomes and we plan in consequence. However, there are moments when we don’t really have a clue. We’re totally lost and are not sure about what the next steps are, what we might need or how to ask for help.

Changes are not always voluntary and easy. When we feel forced to change we might feel we’re losing something. This model,  based on the Kübler-Ross model of transition dealing with loss, considers the productivity and morale that will go down during the change process and will go back to normal once that the team/person are committed again to the change. Of course, the different stages are not rigid, and may vary in duration for different people. 

personal change curve.png

However, the curve is not so simple, it usually looks like this: 

© 2000 / 3 JM Fisher.

Most of the change management model talk about this curve. Project Managers and Change Management specialists know that more than 70% of the change initiatives will fail if they don’t have enough support through change.

We know that people may move from anxiety to hope or happiness and then descend into fear, guilt and sadness because of the loss, and that these feelings will probably hinder the change process.

Each person may experience different emotions at different pace. Each change process is also different. Depending on what is happening in their lives, people may start another curve and go deeper in these negative emotions.

Understanding the process makes easier going through it. This is why is important to reach out for help or at least support when we’re dealing with difficult changes in our lives.

In a future post, we’ll discuss how to move through the different stages and how to move forward to acceptance instead of staying stuck in depression or hostility.

But, for now, remember that you’re not alone. If you’re feeling sad, lost or unaccomplished, or think that you won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you need to remember that each project that is worth doing, takes time, energy and courage.

The 4 keys for Change

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

You want to be happy. You want to feel good. You want to change a situation that is not pleasant. And that’s what we all want, but how?

Past or future concept.


1. If you haven’t done it yet, this is a great time to start: choose your thoughts. You might “listen” to all of them, but you don’t have to let them stay.

You need to stop feeling as a victim so you can take the power back. The other person or the situation is no longer in control.  As Viktor Frankl said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

When we’re in control we can change things. 

2. Identify the situation: Once that you take ownership of the situation, you can move forward. To do it, you need two things: identify where you are and where are you want to go. Once that you know both things you can start walking. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time, as you don’t know for sure if you’re headed on the right direction.

The best way to change something in your life is to find who are you. What inspires you. How do you feel about your current situation. What is the gap between where you are and where you want to be. How willing are you to make the change. Because, let’s face it: change has a price, and you might decide as well not to pay it. And that’s ok!

3. Now that you know where you’re going, you need to have a plan. Plans are not important, planning is key. You need to have a clear plan in mind and you need to be flexible about it.  A plan will focus your mind; it will filter the thousands of thoughts that come to your mind every day and let you pay attention to the important ones. Plan every week but give yourself enough free time to enjoy life and enough flexibility to be spontaneous.

4. Don’t lose faith! As one of my favorite authors, Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “Do not lose heart. We were made for these times”. Don’t accept discouragement from anyone (including you). Don’t walk back if you’re headed somewhere. Take advantage of every effort you have made, even if didn’t work in the way you expected. As for the negative comments, well, consider them as fertilizer for the skills you’re cultivating.  People sometimes have a weird ways of reacting to change. When you’re in control of your life, some people will react, but remember that if they love you, they’ll accept you.

It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to what people have to say, especially people that are important to you, but, you need to identify their intentions and reasons. Is it fear? envy? resentment? Then, don’t take it with you.

We can either make things happen or watch what happens, the choice is yours.  You just need to trust the process.


Then indecision brings its own delays,

And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Who are you? – A short story

Here is a short story:  Centuries ago in Japan, a monk was walking when suddenly met a samurai who was guarding a bridge. The samurai put his sword to the monk’s neck and asked:

-Who are you?

-Where are you going?

-Why are you going there?


The monk took a moment and asked: How much you does your lord pay you to guard this bridge? The samurai replied: 1 sack of rice per month The monk responded: I’ll pay you 3 sacks of rice to ask me the same questions every month.


These are important questions to ask us once in a while. Our identity, our goals and our motives change over time. We need to re-discover ourselves the same way that we need to re-invent ourselves: to deal with the challenges we face.