A problem is the difference between what you have and what you want. You may want to get something, get rid of something, avoid something, or deal with something.
Everyone has problems, no matter who they are or what they do. Problems don’t all go away by themselves, and they be more difficult to solve if you wait. Problem solving is one of the most essential skills in life.
What are the steps to solving problems?
Check your attitude
The first step in solving problems is to check your attitude. We can talk ourselves into or out of many things. To shift from negative to positive:
- Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Rather than getting stuck in the ways things are, look at “What I CAN do…”
- Talk about things the way you want them to be. Carefully choose the words you use. Phrase things in the present, even if you don’t completely believe it yet. For example, instead of saying “I will be a better parent”, say “I am a terrific parent.”
- Don’t be gloomy about the future. Instead of saying “I never stick to a diet,” say “I can lose one pound, and that’s a start.”
- Realize that you don’t have to do it all alone. It’s OK to ask for help.
- It helps to think things through when you feel calm. Feeling stressed can make it harder to make the right choices.
Determine what is making you unhappy. It is one thing to say “I hate my life”, but that is too broad to try to solve. You will be more successful if you break things into manageable chunks. For example, if you want to get in shape, don’t try to walk a mile if you haven’t been active in a long time. Start with going half a block.
- What EXACTLY do I want to change?
- Can this be changed?
- Does the situation need to be changed, or do I need to change the way I look at it?
- How does this affect me?
- How does this affect others?
What do you want to achieve or change? While you need action and energy to achieve goals, you first need to get clear on what results you want. Your goal should be:
- specific so that you will know when you have done it (not “I want to feel better”, but “I want to manage my pain so that I am able to do more.”)
- realistic, practical, and achievable
- clear, so that you know what to do and when to do it
Come up with ideas
Try to think of all possible ways to achieve your goal. Be creative. Even if it seems like a crazy option, make a list of all possible solutions. Surf the web, talk to people, or read books related to your problem. This step is to give you as many choices and ideas as possible.
- What could I do?
- What else could I do?
It may help to write down the pros and cons for each idea. Be logical and thoughtful, but also consider your “gut feeling” about the alternatives.
- What is the best thing that might happen?
- What are the benefits?
- What are the risks?
- Could this cause more problems?
- Is it something I really want to do?
- What might get in the way of my idea (or plan)? How can I avoid or deal with that roadblock?
- How confident am I that this could work?
After you have gone through all of your ideas, it is time to pick the one that you think will work best. The next thing is to plan exactly how to do it.
- What steps should I take? Plan steps that you will be able to do day by day or week by week.
- What role can others play in supporting me?
- What is my start date? What needs to happen after that?
It is important to make a clear choice and define a time limit for an attempt to reach your goal.
Carry out your plan
Do it! You can face the challenges in your life calmly, because you have carefully thought it through. You can feel confident that you are taking actions that are likely to have good results.
If you solved the problem, reward yourself. If it’s not completely solved, review:
- What worked? Give yourself credit for taking action and making progress
- What else can I do now? You may be able to try another way to solve the problem
Sometimes, you just need to accept that this particular problem may not be one that you can solve right now. Is there another goal that you can work on? Focus on what you can do rather than dwelling on what’s wrong.
- Problem Solving: Some Selected Pearls of Wisdom (goelsan.wordpress.com)
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- John Tropea: Snippets – Change the conversation from problem solving to building stronger community inside of your business (johntropea.tumblr.com)
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- Don’t solve your problems! (spiegeltjes.wordpress.com)
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- Why I broke a Puzzle solving record – Pleasing self or pleasing others? (despicablewonderfulyou.wordpress.com)