I’ve posted about nested problems before as The Wrapper, and The Onion (1), (2), (3), (4).
It helps to begin by defining “problem”. A problem isn’t necessarily big or important and doesn’t necessarily require action: it’s simply anything that you want to change. We face hundreds of problems every day:
- My morning alarm is disturbing me – how can I make it stop?
- I need to get up but I’m really tired – what will help?
- I’m hungry.
- These dishes need doing before I can cook.
- The bathroom needs cleaning.
- I need to remember something for later.
- My pen is out of ink.
- I wish I knew what happened next in Les Miserables.
- I want to understand more deeply how electricity works.
- Millions of people around the world are suffering badly from the effects of poverty.
- Mankind is in the early stages of an environmental crisis.
- Watch out for that pandemic!
Many – perhaps the majority – of our problems are either easily solved or unimportant enough to be ignored or put on hold. All but the simplest problems (for example, a non-recurring case of “my nose is itchy”) set off a chain of new problems for us to solve.