Problems are Signals

Americans in general have always admired growth. We admire the fastest growing companies and the cities that grew the most in the past decade. Magazines list the national economics that are growing the fastest. Bigger is better and bigger-faster is better still.

There is another kind of growth, which is much harder to measure. Its goal is not an increase in size (or intelligence or sophistication or experience or skill), but simply ripening. We overcome the barrier to growth as development when we are able to view our problems as signals that it is time to let go of the way in which we have been seeing and doing things and initiate a developmental transition.

The barriers to this kind of growth are overcome whenever we stop viewing our flaws and problems as things to be solved or removed and start viewing them as signals. What the problems are, really, are old solutions that have outlived their usefulness. From that point of view, whenever we do away with a problem instead of listening to its message, we trigger a string of events that lands us in trouble.

William Bridges, The Way of Transitions