Broken Edges Problem Solving!

What do you do when you know something isn’t quite working, such as a job, a creative project, a business idea, or a relationship? How do you turn that inner feeling of misalignment into a practical growth experience, so you can ultimately create or discover a better match?

I’ll share a pretty straightforward process that I use in such situations, one that has served me well for many years and continues to do so. I’ll walk you through a specific example too, so you can see how to apply these ideas on a practical level.

Identify the Broken Edges

The first step is to look at the parts of your problem area that aren’t working. Most likely some parts are working okay while other parts just seem out of alignment with what you want. Put your attention on those broken edges. What’s broken about them? How would you describe the main problem areas? What don’t you like about them?

Mentally place the problem outside of yourself, like a maths problem to be solved or a broken object that needs repairing. Adopt the attitude that you’re absolutely fine as a human being and that something about the problem area is broken. You’re just doing this privately in your own mind, so if other people are involved, you definitely don’t need to pick a fight with them. Just give yourself permission to treat the problem as something external that’s broken, even if internally you’re feeling frustration, anger, resentment, stress, worry, anxiety, etc.

I often do this by writing about the problem area and typing up a list of the broken edges. Sometimes I start by listing what I still like about the problem area, and then I look at the broken bits. But usually I don’t bother with the good stuff list, finding it unnecessary in most cases. If I treat the situation like a maths problem, I don’t need to begin by journaling about what I like about mathematics or the nature of this particular math problem. I can just tackle the problem directly. But if you have a lot of emotion swirling around the problem, you may find it helpful to focus on the good aspects first, so you can calm yourself down enough to see the situation more objectively.

Go ahead and list however many broken edges come to mind. I usually come up with 3-5 of them each time I do this. You just want to hit the main ones though. If you come up with a list of 20 or more, you’re probably overdoing it.

Again, be sure to define your broken edges as external problems. Don’t define them internally. So don’t write down that the problem is that you feel needy in your relationship. Feeling needy is internal, and it’s just your reaction to the external problem. What might the external cause be? For the purpose of doing this step, blaming others is totally fine.

Get specific if you can. If you dislike your job, then what specifically do you dislike about it?

A broken edge is a pattern that isn’t working for you. That pattern may be something pretty narrow and specific, or it may be something pretty broad and general. So define the pattern as narrowly as it actually comes up for you, but if it’s something fairly general, such as your boss’ overall negative attitude, it’s okay to keep it general.

Complain to the Universe

This next step is totally optional, but if you’re into subjective reality (i.e. the perspective that this reality is a dream or simulation), you might want to do it.

Imagine that you’re in a dream world that can create anything you want, and this problem is what you’ve been given instead. Now go ahead and complain aloud to the universe.

How did the dream world fall short? Do you think it can do better? Tell it where it messed up. Actually say this aloud.

Turning Broken Edges Into Desires

It’s great to identify the problem areas, but of course you don’t want to get stuck there. Nobody likes an incessant whiner, the universe included. So the next step is to use these broken edges to define your desires.

This is usually pretty easy. Just look at each broken edge, and write down what it will look like when it’s fixed. If the broken edges weren’t there, what would you experience instead? That’s your desire.

Now you have a list that expresses what you want instead of wallowing in what you don’t want. And you can begin working on the specific transformations, which could involve small tweaks to fix the broken edges or letting go of your current situation and starting something new, now that you know where to look.