The two most difficult roadblocks to success in resolving hard problems are the presence of real trade-offs and considerations of power.

Most complicated problems and difficult conflicts have simple solutions. We often confuse what we believe is a hard solution with a complicated one. What makes solutions to hard problems not easy are the presence of trade-offs (scare resources in scare environments) and power.

In a world of scarce resources (the two scarcest being time and attention these days…even more than money) the trade-offs that must be made to create the space for solutions to your most pressing conflicts can seem insurmountable.

Here are a few (of many) trade-offs. Each one can either represent a zero-sum trade-off or an even exchange trade-off:

Conflict or Apathy

Attention or Ignorance

Awareness or Ennui

Momentum or Slowness

Going Along or Resisting

Reassurances or Courage

Change or Status Quo

Focused or Distracted

Power is the consideration behind most forms of fear. Either a lack of power or power focused in an area that doesn’t benefit getting to a solution. That power is often cloaked in reassurances and comes with a healthy dose of resistance.

We often confuse easy with simple in our own minds. Easy solutions to conflicts usually involve the kinds of solutions that favor whatever trade-off benefits us and validates our perspective.

Easy solutions also preserve our power (maintaining the status quo), or grow our power in each conflict situation. Hard solutions take away or diminish our power, as well as go against whatever trade-off we’d like to have honored.

What makes solutions hard to simple problems is that we are often blind to what is hard, and are aware of what is easy.

Be sure that you are making trade-offs you can live with, in a search for complicated solutions to hard problems.