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We love listening to people talking, not always for what they’re saying (!) but the words they’re using. Whether we realise it or not, we all have our own particular favourite – or “pet” – words, which we seem to use more than others. 
 
And then there are the “pet” phrases which can become infamous in a family or group of friends. One which springs readily to mind – and is always guaranteed to bring a rather rueful smile to family gatherings – comes courtesy of an older family member, who starts many of her observations on life with “I’m not being funny or anything but …”. The response to this is always the same, “No, you’re not being funny at all!”. 
 
 
However, what really interests us is not so much the words being used but their meaning. And how the one assumed by the person using them can be so different to that understood by other people. Let alone the one found in a dictionary or thesaurus. Little wonder, then, that people unwittingly get themselves into so many difficulties... 
 
The word we’d like to talk about today is a perennial favourite, both of individuals and the media. Problem. And doesn’t the mere mention of it make your heart sink. Reaching for our trusty dictionary, it’s easy to see why: 
 
“Problem”, a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome. 
 
Goodness, what a combination of words. Unwelcome. Harmful. Dealt with. Overcome. 
 
And this, if you’ll forgive the pun, is the problem with problems. As soon as you slap the “problem” label on anything it starts to have a life of its own. Grows out of all recognition, both in size and severity. Instantly, whatever it is has become much, much worse. Rather like the bogeyman under the bed when we were little… 
 
But just wait a minute. Has anything really changed? Well, no. The situation – regardless of whatever it is – hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is how we’re seeing it.  
 
And, if we go back to our trusty dictionary, it’s easy to see why: 
 
“Situation” a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself, a state of affairs. 
 
We’ve gone from a neutral “situation” to a negative “problem” in the blink of an eye. 
 
And this is why the words we choose to describe anything are so important. They become, if you like, a self fulfilling prophecy. However we describe it – and, more importantly the emotion it evokes – is what it becomes. 
 
Until we got involved it was simply a “situation”. It was what it was. 
 
Label it a “problem” and it becomes a problem. 
 
Label it “wonderful” or a “blessing” and that’s what it becomes. 
 
Sceptical about this simple logic? 
 
Well, here’s a simple example of it in action. Getting married. It’s often referred to as one of the happiest days of someone’s life. But what if you didn’t want to get married? Or, at least, not to that person (!). Then, what is “wonderful” to someone else has become a “problem” to you. And a big problem at that. 
 
The situation – a wedding – is the same. So what’s changed? 
 
Well, the label we’ve put on it and the emotions that go along with it. 
 
Whatever happens in life is just a situation. Neutral until we put a label on it. Label it a “problem” and it becomes one. Label it “wonderful” – or, perhaps, a “blessing in disguise” and it becomes that. 
 
Nothing that happens in life is fixed, it’s constantly evolving. If you don’t want to be in a particular situation, rather than trying to escape from it, look at it closely. As soon as you do so two things happen. To start with, it doesn’t seem nearly as scary or overwhelming. Remember what happened to the bogeyman under your bed when you were small and finally summoned up the courage to have a look? 
 
Then, more importantly, options start to open up. You can make a well informed decision on what to do. Perhaps sit on the fence for the time being and give things a chance to become clearer. May be even sort themselves out (!). Or, perhaps, there’s something you could do now that would make a difference. Get things moving in the direction you desire. After all, as we’ve said before, obstacles are only temporary
 
Once you’re no longer frightened by a situation you can see the price to be paid. And we use that word in its broadest possible sense. If you stay and do nothing, there’s a price. If you leave, there’s one too. But, remember, there’s no single “right” thing to do. It’s what’s most appropriate for you and your life. 
 
Life is all about learning to handle whatever “situation” comes your way. Some you may know how to handle, some you may not. Some may be more challenging, but that doesn’t mean they’re a “problem”. It just means that you’re gaining new skills and experience. 
 
Really, if you stop and think about it, the only “problem” in life would be if there weren’t any new situations. No new experiences to be had or knowledge to be gained. Then life would be a “problem”, stagnant and uninteresting. 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
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