For a month or two now, I've been giving a good deal of thought to problems and dilemmas. The way I've been thinking about them is this: a problem in your life, like a math problem, has a solution, perhaps even multiple solutions, but in any case, a problem can be solved; a dilemma, on the other hand, is a situation in which there really isn't a good solution, just a weighing of bad options. Problems, even when difficult, have a certain straightforwardness to them; dilemmas, by contrast, are laden with complexity.
It seems to me that as we get older, we have a higher ratio of dilemmas to problems then we did at a younger age. Perhaps this is because the adults in our lives shielded us from the really thorny problems, taking that angst on themselves. But perhaps it's also a matter of perception: perhaps as we get older, we become better able to see the real complexity, to see the ramifications that are both long-term and wider than ourselves, and suddenly situations that in our younger days would have seemed like straightforward problems with good answers turn out to have been only good answers in the short run or for ourselves without consideration of those around us (which, ultimately, may come back to bite us in the long run).
In any case, I have a sense, too, that the higher ratio of dilemmas to problems is in some ways actually more difficult the better you were at solving problems, or the smarter you are. Why? Because, on the one hand, you've gotten used to being able to solve problems and now you're running into things that are actually unsolvable; on the other hand, the more clearly you can see the complexities of the situation, the more likely you are to fall into what we call in the board game world "analysis paralysis." In other words, you spend your time thinking about all the angles on the problem and can't move forward to choosing one of the horns of the dilemma.