Sometimes, The Answer Is “No Solution”

For 8 years, I taught maths–mostly to 8th graders with some 6th and 7th graders sprinkled in. My most challenging task (beyond getting students over the learned hatred of math) was often getting students to see that every problem does not have a solution. That in fact, an honest answer in math is “no solution.” It always tickled me to see the look of confused indignation of students who had worked for 10-15 minutes on a problem before realizing that there WAS no answer. The curse words would flow uninhibited–and I let them cuss because the revelation was worth a few dammits and aww hells as they realized that math is more than answers; it is about process, failure, reflection, patterns, and progress.

I wish more adults could catch that revelation.

Often things happen in life that have ZERO reason. We cannot understand it, how we have done everything well and right and on time only to have the end go so terribly. We fixate on these moments, analyzing for years (decades even) the possible reasons why the bottom fell out of a seemingly perfectly executed strategy. We get frustrated, and rather than receiving a revelation about ourselves, we skip the problem–only to somehow end up in that same place again later.

I want to share with you what I shared with my students all those times we ran up on a “no solution” problem. “No solution” is an answer. It is a fair response. The trouble is NOT that there is “no solution”; the trouble is that you have eliminated the possibility of “no solution” as an answer. When you recognize “no solution” as a valid response, you can go back in life and look what you LEARNED instead of what you did not ACHIEVE.  Let’s go back to my students.

Once they got past the pain of all that hard work looking like it was for nothing, I cued my students in on what they DID learn. What were the conditions of a “no solution” math problem? How could they tell what they were dealing with sooner in the process? What were the patterns of behavior that would immediately signal a “no solution” problem? Could they have reached that understanding faster?

Some of you are dealing with a “no solution” situation right now–but because you never learned to read the signs the last time, you’re still fighting to find an answer. Terrible relationship. Terrible job. Terrible finances. Terrible time. Just terrible. You are unhappy, dissatisfied, trying to make it work. You’ve tried every trick in every book, and (GOD BLESS IT) it still isn’t working.

Guess what? NO. SOLUTION.

And it is okay. Take a minute and breathe.  Because “no solution” means that you have run up on a spiritual truth about yourself. That’s right. You have landed on something that you simply need to accept.

Now go back and reflect: what are the life conditions and thought patterns and action combinations that led you to this place? How can you avoid–or at least see–this “no solution” moment coming the next time?  What have you learned about yourself?

Then, with as little fanfare as possible, move forward into a new reality. Change your thought life. Change your habits. Move on to the next thing knowing what you no know about yourself. You’ll thank me later.

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