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Unhappy? It may be time to change your citizenship

Do you live in "problem land" or in "solution land"?

No, I have not gone New Age on you.

This is a very practical question.

In my experience, most of us spend a lot more time living in problem land, griping and complaining, than we do in solution land, working hard and enjoying problem-solving.

It's almost a national pastime. Just check out a talk show or a self-help book. Almost all the time and space are spent describing, giving examples and complaining about the problem with, if we're lucky, only a glimpse at possible solutions.

Here's the modus operandi of people in problem land.

+ Complain. A lot. Raise it to an art form.

+ When something goes wrong, immediately look for someone to blame.

+ A cousin to the one above, when something goes wrong, take no responsibility for changing things.

+ Keep a working list of all offenses ever done to you and bring them up when anything bad happens.

+ Spend 95 percent of your time focusing on and complaining about the problem and only 5 percent on working toward a solution. This is my biggest gripe with most self-help books.

+ Make lots of self-defeating statements, such as:

"This isn't fair."

"This shouldn't be happening."

"This isn't my fault."

+ Follow this up with self-defeating questions, such as:

"Why is the world out to get me?"

"Why doesn't God like me?"

Or as Rabbit says in Winnie the Pooh, "Why does this always happen to me? Why, oh why, oh why?"

All these factors keep your focus on the problem instead of the solution. At best, you may be able to get someone to feel sorry for you, and at worst, you stay stuck in the problem.

How to live in Solution Land:

+ No. 1 rule: When problems arise _ and they certainly will _ look for solutions. In the movie Rising Sun, actor Sean Connery has this great line, "In America, when something goes wrong, we look for someone to blame. In Japan, when something goes wrong, they look for solutions."

Consider this quote from Richard Bach, author of Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah: "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. We seek problems because we need their gifts."

+ Ask questions that lead to action, such as:

"How can I make this work for me?"

"What might be the gift for me in this problem?"

+ Spend no more than 5 percent of your time and energy complaining about the problem and 95 percent of your time and energy creatively solving the problem.

+ Consider these solutions-oriented questions from motivational expert Tony Robbins:

What's not perfect yet?

What's good about this problem? If you can't think of anything good, ask, "If there was something good about this, what would it be?"

What am I willing to do to solve this problem?

What actions can I take that will help me solve this problem and enjoy the process?

There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to notice and small enough to solve quickly. Attack problems early and head-on, before they have a chance to grow.

I'll close with a fantastic quote from W. Mitchell. It's one to live by:

"It's not what happens to us in life that makes the difference. It's what we do about it."

In other words, we have the power of choice. Problem land or solution land, which will it be for you?

Jeff Herring is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical hypnotherapist.