We Don’t Solve Our Problems, We Outgrow Them

I was recently reminded of a great quote from psychologist Carl Jung: He said, “We don’t solve our problems, we outgrow them.” As I’ve been thinking about this the past few days, I realize how often my attention is actually on solving my problems, not outgrowing them.  No wonder the ones I obsess about the most seem to linger.

However, we’ve all experienced this outgrowing process many times.  Think back to some of the biggest problems in your life when you were a child or an adolescent (or even just a few years or months ago) that are no longer issues for you anymore.  In most cases, you simply outgrew these things.

We also experience this phenomenon whenever something intense happens in our life whether it’s something that is intensely good or bad. Major life experiences often put everything in perspective giving us an opportunity to stop and re-evaluate many aspects of our lives. Usually, upon further reflection, we realize that most of our problems are not that big of a deal.

How can we make this awareness process more conscious and deliberate, and not simply happen by accident?  It s important that we shift our focus, as Jung reminds us, from solving to growing.   As we try to solve the biggest problems in our lives related to relationships, career, health, effectiveness, money, awareness, and more maybe we can stop trying so hard to fix these things and look more deeply at the feedback we re getting and where we can enhance our own growth.

Take money, for example.  Many people I know, myself included, are especially focused on money these days.  And while the economic environment of the past year or so has both created and exposed a number of money problems for many of us personally, organizationally, nationally, and globally maybe instead of simply trying to solve our money issues, we can look at how to expand our growth as it relates to money and in a larger sense abundance, worth, peace, and more. As Albert Einstein famously said, “We can’t solve our problems from the level of thinking which created them.”

Here are a few things we can think about as we look to deepen our growth and shift away from the obsessive problem solving mode many of us find ourselves in:

1)  Confront your biggest problems.   Tell the truth about the biggest issues in your life and look at what you ve been doing to either avoid or solve them neither of which will ultimately give you what you want.

2)  Look for the growth opportunity.  With authenticity and compassion, see if you can look beneath your avoidance or even your intended solutions, and find the beautiful feedback life is giving you right now about where you can grow.

3)  Reach out for support.  Getting support, feedback, and guidance is an essential aspect of our life and growth, especially when we want to change, transform, and grow into new and deeper places.  When we re looking at outgrowing some of the most challenging aspects of our life and transcending certain “problems” (some of which we may have been dealing with for quite some time), it’s fundamentally important we reach out for help from people in our lives friends, family members, co-workers, counselors, coaches, teachers, and others.

As we do these three things, with a sense of kindness and appreciation towards ourselves, we can expand our growth, which will ultimately lead us to where we want to be in our lives.  Remember, there is no specific destination we re after in this process growth is really about deepening our experience of life and enhancing our capacity for joy, fulfillment, and love.

Where can you expand your own growth right now?  How can you take your attention off of solving and put it more on growing in a way that will make a difference for you?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / estreya

Originally published in 2010


  1. Totally agree!!!

    "Outgrow them" I like the expression. I say "they no longer have the same power" but who cares about how we verbalize it. The feeling is pure awesomeness.

  2. This reminds me of the serenity prayer; :God grant me the power to change what i can change, to accept what i cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I;ve sat through many support group meetings and prayed this prayer. i would also add, “the discipline to do the work to change what i can change.”