How To Find Meaning In A Problem Filled Life

Have you noticed how life seems to come with problems? Whatever you do, there seems to be a problem attached. Solve that problem and, hey presto, here’s a different one. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be problem-free? What if you could make it so that your life had no problems whatsoever?

In this post, I’m going to give you three reasons why that would be terrible for your wellbeing – and what you’re best aiming for instead.

Here are the 3 reasons why no problems are a bad idea?

  • It’s unattainable
  • Life would bore you
  • Life would be no FUN – really!

It’s unattainable

Here’s a surefire way to accomplish misery. Set yourself a goal that isn’t possible. That way, you’ll always be striving for something that can’t happen. Yet because you think it should be happening, you’ll feel miserable. You will spend your life in a constant state of lack. The standard you set for yourself will never be met. You’ll go through life feeling like a constant failure.

There are not many people who are disappointed in themselves for their inability to fly. But if we had all been misled into thinking that flapping our arms should result in flight, then we’d all be pretty down on ourselves.

As you’ve noticed, whatever you do, a problem will show up. For instance, I remember hearing an interview with a therapist who worked only with the world’s richest people. One of them had a yacht so big that he couldn’t find anywhere to dock it.

Even when you can afford a big yacht, guess what? You get a problem to go with it. And it sends your blood pressure up a tick in the same way my problems do.

So problems are everywhere. It can seem a right pain in the neck at times. But here’s the strange part. Getting rid of problems for good would be even worse.

Why? Because you’d be bored. I mean really, really bored!

Life would bore you

There’s a strange thing that appears every day in everyone’s daily newspaper. It’s a grid of boxes called a crossword puzzle. There you are, happily eating your breakfast cereal and suddenly they give you a problem.

There are these gaps in the grid for words to go in. But they don’t tell you what the words are. They don’t just show it complete. No! They give you clues so you have to puzzle out what word is meant to go where.

These puzzles are very popular. I know some people who only buy the newspaper because this puzzle is in it. They are literally buying a problem.

Why? Because it adds interest to the day.

Dog owners know this too. There are two ways to give a dog a treat. One is to hand it the treat. The other is to lock it within a puzzle. There are toys specially designed for this. Now your dog is having a great old time.

Problems make life interesting. So much so that we often choose them. Like the person who only buys the paper for the crossword puzzle.

Go to any book store and you’ll see entire sections dedicated to puzzle books. Books filled with problems.

Which suggests something else. Problems can be fun!!

Life would be no fun

The video game industry is worth $135 Billion each year. That’s a lot of money. It is all generated from people eager to have problems. All video games involve solving problems. If they didn’t, nobody would buy them.

Solving problems is what makes it a game. Take the problems away, and it’s not a game anymore. It’s just something dull.

Take golf as an example. It’s pretty easy to put a ball into a hole in the ground. Just bend down and drop the ball in. Job done. But that’s no fun at all.

So they make it problematic on purpose. They make you stand hundreds of yards away from the hole. Then they make it so you can only put the ball in the hole by hitting it with a stick! It’s only fun when there are problems.

Think of anything you enjoy doing. It is laden with problems and challenges to overcome. Without that right level of challenge, there is no fun, and we become bored with it.


So we have seen that there are 3 good reasons why being problem-free is no good for us.

First, it’s unattainable. How can we be happy pursuing something that isn’t even possible? That sets us up for failure and is a recipe for disgruntlement. Even the billionaire with the luxury yacht had problems!

Second, life would be boring. Think of those days when you’ve been bored. How do you fix that? Often, we give ourselves a problem, like a crossword puzzle, or some kind of project. If not, we’ll enjoy watching someone else deal with a problem – like a cookery competition on TV or a drama. Imagine a story where the hero faces no problems.

Finally, life would lose its fun. The only reason why games are popular is because they have problems artificially added. There doesn’t have to be a dragon guarding the gold in your computer game. We don’t have to make it so we hit the golf ball with a long, awkward stick. But we do. Because it’s more fun that way.


It is worth noting that when we lack problems, we often choose to invent them. Not because we are masochists. But because the RIGHT kind of problem is fun!

And this is the key phrase – the RIGHT kind of problem. After all, many problems are a pain in the neck too. Yet instead of aiming to eradicate our problems, a better way is to upgrade them. Get better problems. Maybe even problems that are fun to deal with.

Think of a movie director seeking an actor for the lead part in a movie. None of the people who auditioned can act. What is the director to do? This is a lousy problem.

Suddenly, three great actors appear and give amazing auditions. But of course, there is only one lead part. Which one of these incredible actors gets the part? It’s still a problem – but a better one.

If you still had problems but tomorrow’s are a little better than today’s, what might they be?

Given that some problems are better than others, what are the better problems on the next rung up the ladder?

Better still, what problems would you enjoy trying to solve? Perhaps having problems that are fun to solve is the very definition of enjoyable work. Interestingly, it is also the very definition of play.


Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice

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