How To Solve A Problem Without Creating More Problems

When the finish line seems out of sight

Have you ever had days when you’re at your wits end? When you feel like you’ve been going around in circles but you’re not quite getting any closer to the solution?

Hercules did too.

He was tasked to kill the Hydra, a monster which was practically indestructible. Hydra is a multi-headed snake of gigantic proportions, see picture above.

The most dangerous quality of the hydra is its power to regenerate.

If you'd cut off one head of the hydra, two more would grow back in its place.

Oftentimes, we encounter metaphorical Hydras in our own life.

Trying to fix one problem leads to two more problems unraveling.

I’ve had days when I’ve struck off one thing on my to-do list only to see 5 more things take its place!

The pattern repeats when I'm attempting to overcome something - like a failure, a bad decision, breaking an old habit and so on.

I take one step forward and two steps back and feel much worse off even after working so hard to find closure on something.

Since Hercules has some experience with this sort of thing, I think it's worth learning a few things from him.

Spoiler alert - Herc defeats the hydra

This is how he does it.

He gets help

Hercules enlists his nephew, Iolaus, to help him kill the hydra. Iolaus cauterises the severed heads once Hercules slices them so that no new heads would grow in the cauterised stumps. If you’ve got an overloaded to-do list, you might want to ask for help with it. That’s usually not the first thing that strikes one’s mind but sometimes it’s necessary - at least until you get your bearings. If you’re having trouble navigating your emotional issues and are feeling more and more trapped inside your own mind, it’s worth talking to a counselor or a therapist. They could offer you a way out you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Put up your hand and ask for help.

He seeks out the root cause

While the Hydra seemed immortal at first glance, with its regenerating heads, Hercules sought to find out if there was any head that would not regenerate - the root. Even with our problems, there’s a tendency to dismiss a problem as unsolvable because the initial few tries will usually give us false positives and misdirect us. For some problems, the only way to find the root cause is to engage with the false leads and the frustration of making mistakes. This is uncomfortable and frustrating in equal measure but take comfort in the fact that the more 'fake heads' you slice through, the better chance you have of getting to the root cause.

He extracts more than just a victory

At long last, once the Hydra was killed, Hercules didn't just walk away. Through his long arduous fight with the Hydra, he discovered that its blood was poisonous - no doubt, something that would make his fight even more difficult than he'd estimated. But once he'd defeated the Hydra, Hercules didn't forget this little detail. The man went so far as to keep the monster's blood to kill other monsters! Talk about not letting something go to waste. You don't have to use your pain to cause others pain, but you can use the lesson from this area of life to improve other aspects. The most painful events have inspired the best art ever created. Keep the growth even though it's painful and put it to good use.

And remember, the first step is to go on the quest.

You can solve the problems that are staring you down.
Don’t avoid them. Show up. Get to work.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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