Right from the start there’s one thing you can be sure of – all the successful people you will ever meet are highly resourceful when it comes to problem solving and they definitely have a thing or two you can learn from them. The more you get comfortable dealing with problems the more guaranteed your success is. Naturally, different problems and challenges can create different degrees of anxiety but can also boost confidence at a smaller or larger scale. How well equipped are you to face daily challenges and how well prepared not to avoid those challenges that will lead to your greatest accomplishments? Follow along and let the answer emerge as we take a look at some of the steps you may want to consider if you are looking to get those problem-solving skills upgraded.
1. Make the solution the center of your focus instead the problem
How hard have you tried this so far? Have you really invested your energy and concentration on solutions, rather than on problems to notice the different results you can get with both these methods? Being solution focused has become a very spread objective among people who are looking for ways to improve their problem-solving skills because when problems occur, most people waste an incredible amount of time thinking, talking, and studying the problems, while the negative effects of the problems continue their merciless raid on their lives.
However, for some time now there’s been a change in the way many professionals think about dealing with problems due to an alternative approach becoming more popular; this approach recommends dedicating time and talking to potential solutions rather than concentrating on what is not going right. It’s obvious that if you want to employ this “method” to your own problem solving needs, you need to change your old ways of looking at a problem. Drop the long-standing patterns of thinking. Wrap your mind around a radical shift in thinking.
Even scientific studies of the nervous system have pointed out that as long as your focus is on the problem, you are actually fighting the possibility to find the right solution because you are virtually making “requests” for more negativity to come your way in the shape of thoughts and emotions which will inhibit your brain’s creativity. This creativity is absolutely necessary in finding solutions. Start cherish it.
2. Pursue the right question rather than the right answer
This principle has thousands of years of wisdom behind it. It has been widely adopted in ancient oriental philosophy and way of thinking. Make a firm decision to give up close-minded, vague questions that are not likely to get the wanted results for you. Just as with objectives, you must be very clear and specific in formulating the questions related to your problems. Questions such as: “Why can’t I have a normal life?” or “When will everybody just give me a break?” have no practical potential to solving your current problems. Getting used to asking many different questions means getting used to coming up with many different answers and, yes, many times multiplying the questions multiplies your chances of reaching a desirable solution. Just be careful not to shoot from the same position all the time, which is to say, try more than one perspective when asking yourself these questions. However, keep in mind that many questions doesn’t mean many complicated questions (an aspect which connects to our next step). Aim for simple ones. A pen and a piece a paper may be your most valuable tools at this point. Write them down. Let’s have a look at some examples of the “right” kind of questions:
How do I define my problem?
How important is this to my life and to my current situation?
What information I have related to it?
Can I get more information on it? How?
What consequences will it have if not addressed immediately?
Does it have any upside?
Is there anyone I can ask for help?
When will this cease to be a problem?
I know these questions look very simple but don’t underestimate their power of clarifying those things for you that need to be clarified if you want to make problem-solving less burdening.
3. Make everything simpler
You may have noticed a sort of inclination towards complicating things and indulging ourselves in having a busy problem graphic. I know I have. One way of removing the “extras” is to generalize the problem. Simply strip it of all irrelevant details and go fundamental on it! It’s like finding the root key in a musical sample that you want to mix. Simplicity is greatness. Steve Jobs has once said about it: “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
4. Find out what prevents you from being an effective problem solver
When talking about not being able to effectively solve the problems in our life we are really talking about the barriers that appear every time we make a decision and which “make sure” we are not going to make the most advantageous one. It is possible that we are not even aware of them or that we choose to ignore them. But at what cost? Try to identify among the barriers listed below those that apply in your case and make you less of a problem solver:
Self-doubt: self-doubt may have a powerful discouraging effect; it can block you so you don’t want to take any risks or accept new challenges in your life. You could be feeding this type of constant uncertainty by re-engaging emotionally in bad past experiences and lacking a “proof” of your own qualities.
Resistance to change: a very important aspect here is examining the true nature of resistance. Many times what people really resist to is social change. They fear the change in their human relationships that a change in their approach to life’s problem can bring along. Reluctance is something quite common to be met with every time you present people with a way of doing things that invalidates the one they had been using.
Lack of discernment: this is directly connected to our view on things. This view is, in its turn, directly connected to our previous experiences. The right solution could be staring at us and we could be totally blind to it because our own belief system and past experiences are making us so. That’s why is nearly a “duty” to allow yourself to question your belief system.
Habits: any chance to achieve something can be helped or hindered by our habits. Bad habits can “thrive” within our system of thought and, in return, feed a defective system of thought that will keep our problem-solving abilities at a minimum level. You may have difficulties finishing those books you wanted to read so badly because you are not really aware that you always try to read at night in poor light after having a much too heavy meal.
5. Keep an open mind
…. Because “The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.” (E. B. White)
Keeping an open mind can be a wonderful tool in becoming an effective problem solver. This doesn’t mean you must force yourself into believing or accepting everything. Instead, it implies your full attention – you should listen, observe, and try to understand every situation you encounter. When you face a complex problem, at first, don’t reject any possibilities that come to your mind. It’s again about creativity and not putting obstacles in front of it. It is crucial that you don’t treat your thinking as “ridiculous”, to allow some space in which a right solution can settle. Sometimes, going that extra, apparently crazy or stupid mile, can hand over the solution on a silver plate.
6. Use lateral thinking
The term “lateral thinking” was invented back in 1967 by Edward De Bono and appeared for the first time in a book called “The Use of Lateral Thinking”. It basically means the ability to use your imagination to tackle a problem in a different way and come up with a solution that is not necessarily in the range of common thinking. Lateral thinking will bring innovation and sparkle up your game. This implies neither finding a solution to an upfront logical problem nor being madly imaginative in your daydreaming program without bringing any concrete manifestation in reality.
7. Use a plan of action
It doesn’t have to be your best. The point here is to get used to applying some principles in order to improve your problem-solving approach. And using a plan of action every time you are confronted with a complex problem is definitely one of them. It involves being determined and assuming responsibility for some steps you decide are important in finding a solution. Allow yourself to make mistakes. You will get better with every new plan you conceive. Allow yourself to learn from these mistakes. You will see the benefits of designating precise tasks and deciding on deadlines. Getting from what to do to this is how I’ll do it is a tremendously valuable process – it involves narrowing down the possible ways in which you can put your ideas in motion and see the outcome of your creative thinking.
Remember that all these principles are meant to help you sharpen your problem solving skills. It’s like using a tool to build a bigger tool that you can build your reality with. You can go beyond them, add some more or even come up with your own strategy to implement them.