William Liao

December 7, 2021

What if there were no problems to solve?

During some of his meditations on the Waking Up app, Sam Harris poses the following questions: “what if there were no problems to solve? What would that experience be like?” 

I’ve asked myself these questions while dealing with some particularly stressful problems, including a personal health scare last March and when I was figuring out what my next job would be following the conclusion of my employment contract. 

Interestingly, asking “what if” granted me enough slack psychologically to briefly invoke a state of mind where — amid very real, very important problems that needed solving — I wasn’t weighed down by frustration, anxiety, and a general sense of burden. 

This experience helped elucidate an insightful truth — that there is a precondition, a state of mind, a quality of experience, that is available to you wherein you can confront a problem in life without needlessly suffering from feelings of distress. 

Similar wisdom is conveyed in Charles Swindoll’s popular quote, that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” The situation and your reaction are two separate things. 

There will always be problems to solve, and with each one is an opportunity to react with grace instead of frustration — with equanimity instead of anxiety.