THE BLOG
11/21/2011 05:55 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

The Problem Is Not the Solution

I started this morning talking life, spirituality, and politics with my brother (and favorite person), Darryl. He lives in Virginia and I live in California, so most of our time together is spent on the phone. Four years ago my brother was working as a vice president for a major financial institution in New York City. He had been there for over 20 years, literally working his way up the ladder from the mailroom to the executive offices. After the stock market crashed in 2008, he was without a job. Today, Darryl paints homes for a living. He is actually happier than he's ever been. Never once have I heard him complain about his work as a banking vice president or a painter. I remind him often that he inspires me.

I'm a true collector of people, and the experience I have with my brother is rare. Many of the conversations I have with the people I collect turn to politics and the economy, and the various perspectives tend to be quite colorful. At least once a day, someone shares with me his or her disappointment with President Obama. Not long ago, a woman smoking a cigarette told me at length about her anger that President Obama hadn't done more for health care. I stood there listening, inhaling the smoke from her cigarette -- her perspective and behavior were more captivating than my discomfort. That woman changed my life, because it was in that moment that I asked myself "What can I do to change health care (and every other thing I'm complaining about or blaming President Obama for)?"

One of my brother's mottos is to be solution-focused (as opposed to problem-fixated). Everyone can figure out what the problems are, he says, it's the solutions that will make the difference.

I hear the words "solution focused" ringing in my ears as I watch the 99 percent from my sofa. I feel proud that we have come out of our houses and on to the streets; I'm just not sure whether the focus is on problems or solutions. As I spend time talking to friends and family, I notice that most of us don't draw the connection between ourselves and the activities of our representatives in Washington D.C. We hold our elected leaders responsible for policies and legislation, but we let ourselves off the hook as to every issue impacting our lives. What would happen if the smoking woman could see the contradiction of her words and actions to health care?

Doing your part to heal our nation does not necessarily have to connect with politics. Toward the beginning of President Obama's presidency, I was deeply connected to the health care campaign. In support of the legislation I hosted an information booth at my local farmers market each week. I passed out literature and asked people to call their congressional representatives. I too wanted a single payer, so I did everything I could to promote my desire. I was bummed, yes, I said bummed, like a little girl who didn't get what she really wanted for Christmas when it became clear that the single payer system would not pass. I wanted to be angry with President Obama. I wanted to blame him and threaten to not vote or participate. But something about that felt off, even as everyone around me started picking up their marbles and leaving the playground.

The words of my brother Darryl rang true. Focus on the solution. "What can I do to improve our health care system?" The only answer I came up with was to do my best to improve my own health. I had always been health-conscious and athletic, but I needed to understand my impact on a broken health care system. Currently unemployed, caring for a child with special needs, and receiving assistance from the state, I knew any choice I made would likely have a greater impact than most.

Right from where I was, I decided to begin preparing my own meals each day. I removed unhealthy food from my diet, replacing them with more fruits, vegetables and organic meats. I also continued to exercise regularly. I realize I am one person, but my realization of the impact I have on a broken health care system, and my commitment to my health are a start. We can each find the issue that triggers our impulse to complain about President Obama and finger-point at Congress. And once we've identified it, we can point the finger at ourselves and begin doing for ourselves what we think someone else can do better. Our disappointments are obstacles to the desired outcome, nothing more. Obstacles, by their nature are designed to strengthen and challenge us to discover what else is possible.

What's your vision for this nation? Once you've answered that question decide how you can begin creating that vision right where you are. When my brother's executive job went away, I watched as he turned his attention to solutions. He could have very well blamed the economy or the 1 percent for his unemployment. For him, complaining would burn as much energy as creating a solution. There's no better time than now to see ourselves for who we truly are, solution generators. It's time we all wake up and accept that we matter; we are necessary in order to influence real change. It begins within. Within is where the real solutions can be discovered.