This last week, whenever my 1st grader would fuss about something, or I would get frustrated, or things would become chaotic, I started taking a deep breath, looking at the source of irritation, and saying out loud: "It's a design problem."
And a few seconds after saying this, instead of beginning my usual routine of cursing unkind fates, slamming stuff around, and being grumbly and unpleasant to everyone for the next 20 minutes, I would start to quietly think of solutions. I examined the instigating problems and their potential causes, and brainstormed what could be done to eliminate or redirect the source of the problem. That has been v-e-r-y interesting, and has also led to mini-breakthroughs in my personal life that cheered me up and made me feel like a clever designer. Suddenly, after an annoyance, I am not mad but glad.
One quick example: Daughter complaining of aaaaaaalwaaaaaaaays being the last one in the car and buckled in. (For whatever reason, this normal fact of daily life as it has been for years suddenly started bothering her. Still don't know why.) After a week or two of many trips together and much whining, I said, "It's a design problem!" and I realized--it was. The way I usually parked the car was driver's side towards the buildings we were entering/exiting. That meant that if I moved her car seat from the passenger side to right behind my driver's seat, we would both get to the car at the same time, and she would dart in quickly and buckle up before I was even all settled in. We rearranged the seat thusly, and there is now no more whining.
Meant a lot to me, y'all! And I have had many more moments like this in the last few days. Awesomeness!
“Upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but, holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them." –Abraham Lincoln
I have thought about things that way for many years, never thought to verbalize it to focus the thought, thank you!
I dismay others who say "can't you leave it alone?" but when I see what could be done to improve something, I do it if I can. Due my health limitations and my education in ergonomics and body mechanics, I have everything I can working as efficiently as I can. It makes me more productive to not have to fight the same small battles day after day.
So much of our lives are arranged by habit, or how it's done normally, or that's what for sale, that we forget there are other ways to do things. Looking at it as "It's a Design Problem" can only expand our awareness of our actual options in the world, and they are MUCH more numerous and variable than most people think.
Excellent post Rachel! Thank you for putting words to the concept!!
Another good one is "it's okay, it happens." Dropped your snack? It happens. Whatchmacallit broke? It happens. I taught that one to my little cousin and it solved a lot of temper tantrums. For a while he was even telling other kids.
Speaking of raising kids and design problems. Montessori solved a LOT of these. If you ever get a chance to observe a Montessori classroom it is brilliant.
Everything is designed such that kids can do everything by themselves when they are physically ready.
One that sticks out to me is how to get kids to clean up (and this holds true for adults as well), define a place where it belongs when not in use, put a picture of the item there. It will be easy to return every time.
It's a beautiful design solution.
In my own life I find I have too much stuff and not enough places. But we are slowly working on reducing so that everything can have its place. My wife and I are big proponents of the "danshari" method. Essentially - 1. refuse, 2. remove, 3. become aware.