This essay by Norman Vincent Peale appeared in Guideposts magazine.
Every person has a unique problem, and it’s a rather tough one. The problem is life. If you don’t know what you’re going to do with life, life will do something to you.
Either you master life or life masters you. It’s just that simple.
Whatever problems you may be facing, you can solve them if you trust yourself and believe in your abilities. If you don’t have the know-how, you can get it. If you lack the insight, you can find it. If you don’t have the wisdom, you can obtain it. As long as you are alive, you can do something about your problems.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told the story about the day that crowds on the streets of an English cathedral town were going about their daily business when suddenly someone spotted a young woman standing on a narrow ledge high above, on one of the towers of the cathedral. A great crowd gathered below, hushed and horrified.
Policemen climbed the tower and attempted to bring her down. A minister came and talked with her. But, after some 30 minutes, she flung herself from the tower down to the street. No one ever found out what problems had driven her to that desperate act. But there is one thing she either didn't know, or couldn't comprehend, and that is the powerful truth that, for every problem, there is an answer.
"That's great," you may say, "but how do you get it?" Here are three positive action steps you can take to tackle tough problems.
1. Think deep thoughts.
How long has it been since you've really thought deeply? Deep thinking is one of the most painful exertions known to man. We shrink from it. We like to be relieved of it so we think off the top of our heads.
But the trouble with those thoughts is that they remain superficial. John Burroughs, one of our great naturalists, once said that there were just two classes of people. He wasn’t referring to men and women, young and old or rich and poor. The two classes he saw were the "quick" and the "dead."
By the "quick," he meant people who look at the world and see it; people who listen to the world and hear it. The quick are people who are sensitized to the world around them; they get the meaning of the world. They are alive, alert and vibrant.
As for the "dead, while they aren't dead physically, they are insensitive. They never grapple with ideas or try new ways of doing things. They are dead in the spirit, living only superficially.
Thus, one step towards learning to solve your problems is to take the time to think about it, contemplate it and “feel out” various possible solutions.
2. Clear your mind.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once related a story that happened during the Korean War. An American destroyer lay at anchor in Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on a still, moonlit night. The tide was ebbing and it was around midnight.
The quartermaster was making his routine rounds of the ship, when he suddenly noticed a cylindrical black object in the water. He immediately realized that it was a live contact mine that must have broken loose from a mine field. And it was slowly drifting toward midship. The quartermaster seized the intercom and called the duty officer, who came dashing to the scene with the captain.
A general alarm was sounded, and the whole ship burst into action. The officers and men viewed the mine that was approaching ever closer. Quickly, they considered what could be done. Could they pull up anchor? No, they didn't have time. Could they start the engines and swing the ship around? No, because the propeller wash would only suck the mine in faster. Could they explode it by gunfire? No, that would not work because of the proximity to the ship's magazine. Could they launch a boat and push it away? That was ruled out, for it was a contact mine. Seemingly, there was nothing to do but to alert the officers and men to brace themselves for a catastrophe.
However, among the men on deck was an ordinary seaman who outthought all his superiors. "Get the fire hoses!" he cried. What a simple, practical idea. They played a stream of water between the ship and the mine so that it created a current that moved the mine out a safe distance, where they then could destroy it with gunfire.
So what did that seaman have that none of the others had? First, it was clarity of mind. Nothing was confusing his thought processes. No tension or inner conflict inhibited his mental powers. As a result, he was able to think in a crisis, and he produced a creative solution to a tough problem.
The human mind is so constituted that if you focus your attention on a problem, keeping yourself calm and your mind unruffled, and if you maintain faith in God and firmly believe that you’re going to get an answer, the answer will appear.
3. Use creative silence.
The eminent industrialist Robert G. LeTourneau, manufacturer of earthmoving machinery, once received a wartime order from the government for a very complicated large machine to lift airplanes. No machine of the kind had ever been designed.
LeTourneau and his engineers went to work on the problem, but it stumped them. They worked at it for several days, but weren't getting anywhere. They became tense and nervous. Finally, as Wednesday night came around LeTourneau said, "Well, boys, I'm knocking off. I'm going to a prayer meeting."
"You can't do that, boss,” his workers said. ”We've got a deadline to meet."
"But," he said, "I've got a deadline with God."
He went to the prayer meeting, dropping the problem into the deep well of his unconscious mind. He sang hymns and prayed. He got himself into harmony with God. What happened after the meeting? LeTourneau reported that as he was walking along the street, there in his mind, in complete detail, was the design of the machine. It had been there all the while, of course, he just needed creative silence to bring it forth.
If your problem is related to your health, your business, your children—it makes no difference what it is—don’t get agitated or depressed. Don’t try so hard. Don’t panic. Whatever your problem, when you lift your spirits, clear your mind, believe in your potential, take the worry and fear out of your thoughts, and have faith in God, you can do the impossible. You surely can.
As long as I am alive, I can do something about my problems.