The Solution Is the Problem

It is only when we understand the fundamental nature of the problem that it is eradicated

Words by Joshua Fields Millburn

Most people want “solutions” because they’re unwilling to dig down to the root of the problem. The real problem.

So-called solutions are but an opiate.

Most how-to lists, step-by-step instructions, and habit-change remedies are drugs that mask the symptoms, yet they compound the problem in the long run.

What if, instead of numbing the pain, we sidestepped the solutions and scrutinized the problem itself?

If your desk chair is aflame, reading the Fire Safety Manual won’t save you. The problem isn’t a lack of instructions—the problem is your posterior is on fire.

If you own too much stuff, watching a “67 decluttering steps” video won’t help. The problem isn’t a shortage of decluttering tips—the problem is the attachment to stuff.

If you want to find tranquility, pondering the “7 habits of effective people” won’t bring you peace. The problem isn’t your “bad” habits—the problem is thinking “good” habits will trigger joy.

Solutions are seductive, but they rarely solve anything because chasing a “fix” removes our attention from the problem.

It is only when we understand the fundamental nature of the problem that it is eradicated.

If you understand the why, the how takes care of itself.

Joshua Fields Millburn

Joshua Fields Millburn is a bestselling author, writing instructor, and international speaker. Best known as one half of The Minimalists, he is the author of four books, including a critically acclaimed memoir, Everything That Remains. He has been featured in Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun, Village Voice, LA Weekly, and many other outlets. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1981, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California.


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Inside Minimalism is our series of exclusive essays on simple living. Each essay is written by our team of writers who are passionate about helping you craft a simpler life. Supported by their own personal experiences, we want to inspire and encourage you to clear the path of life’s stuff, so you can get to where you really want to be.

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