Take the headache out of solving problems

solving problemsMuch of life can be spent solving problems which may be giving you a headache because they are getting in the way of achieving your goals.

This is often because problem solving can seem a bit like piloting a small dinghy through narrow straits, without maps, distress flares or a radio.

The amount of effort required to recognise the problem initially, track down its causes, find solutions and take action can also be disconcerting. It sometimes seems easier to ignore what is going on in the hope that it will go away – it rarely does.

The problem with problems

The problem with problems is that they usually involve questions or issues which contain uncertainty, doubt or difficulty. That is what makes them problems. But the lack of impetus to do anything at all, let alone produce workable solutions, can often become a problem in itself.

Some people find identifying the problem to be the most difficult part, while others find that working out a viable solution to be the stumbling block.

Making the decision about how to solve the problem may be the impediment, while putting the chosen solution into practice through fear of the unknown could also be the blockage.

There are various reasons why problems do not get tackled, many of which may have to do with feeling faint-hearted, fearing failure, finding it difficult to cope with uncertainty, or simply just not knowing how to go about resolving problems.

There are three key steps that you need to take to help you resolve a problem satisfactorily.

1. Define the real problem. Defining the real problem that you are facing is the all-important activity. What may appear to you to be a niggling small issue may be disguising a huge submerged mine, waiting to be detonated.

Or, it may be that, like Don Quixote, you think you have to contend with thirty ferocious giants, all of which turn out to be harmless windmills. To solve a problem, you need to make sure that what you think is the problem actually is the problem.

The only way you can do this is to describe its features in detail and examine the causes. You also need to have a fair idea of what you are aiming for by solving the problem.

2. Make a decision. You cannot solve problems without making decisions. The prospect of making a decision may make you feel that the best method is to wrap a towel around your head and sit in a darkened room with a stiff drink.

Or even to hang up a piece of paper listing the options, shut your eyes and select one with a drawing pin. Sadly these are unlikely to produce the best outcome. It is important not to be intimidated by the magnitude of making the decision or allow previous failures or inertia to deter you from deciding what you need to do to solve the problem.

You need to look carefully at your options, deliberate, consult with others, and then bring both logic and intuition to the fore.

3. Take action and solve the problem. For any decision to become a solution, you need to take positive action. You also need to plan how you will go about implementing your decision. You then need to inform everyone involved about what is happening, why it is happening and how they will benefit once the problem has been solved.

When you take direct action, you put yourself well on the path to solving your problem, and this should give you plenty of confidence to go out and look for another one to solve.

Enjoy the benefits that come from solving problems

The resolution of problems is an inevitable part of life in general. No one can achieve anything without having problems to solve and decisions to make. Taking a disciplined approach allows you to tackle any difficulty in a systematic and creative way. The more you do so, the easier it becomes.

Apart from the obvious benefits of solving problems themselves, you will find that a number of spin-off benefits can occur:

  • You are more willing to face up to problems.
  • You can anticipate problems more easily.
  • You can think up creative ideas at the drop of a hat.
  • You are better at finding solutions.
  • You become more confident at making decisions.
  • You stop procrastinating and start achieving what you want.

By making decisions and solving problems, you keep yourself mentally fit and engage in new experiences. A fresh challenge can charge your batteries and stimulate you into taking action.

Action is a great liberator; you feel that you are getting somewhere at last. The will to solve problems is part of that liberation.

Kate Keenan
April 2017

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