“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
― Albert Einstein
Problems and decisions can be upsetting. How nice it would be if we had a plan to follow that made solving a problem much easier. There is such a plan.
CONSIDER THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PROBLEM. Then decide how much time you want to spend on gathering information.
Example: Buying a car will take more time than choosing a movie. Choosing a spouse should take more consideration and time than buying a car.
Prioritize your time based on how much your decision will affect the important things in your life.
Solve the problem immediately. This will eliminate much stress and worry. Avoiding a real problem will make it worse.
Example: “I need a car now because my car is falling apart and I can’t rely on it. I don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere when a problem comes up. Do I buy a car or fix up my car? If I buy a car, do I buy a new one or a used car?”
SEPARATE PEOPLE FROM THE PROBLEM. Is behavior causing problems? Attack the problem, not the person. Don’t react emotionally. Don’t react at all. Look at the situation objectively.
Example: “My girlfriend hates my car and insists that I buy another one.”
CLEARLY DEFINE YOUR PROBLEM. Many times, you see symptoms of a problem. Get beneath the surface and understand the real problem.
Example: “My car needs a new air conditioner, a tune-up and a brake job. If I spend the money to fix it up and keep it for another year, I will be able to save enough money to have a good down payment on another car.”
DETERMINE THE DESIRED OUTCOME. Look at the problem in relation to your goals, values and main purpose. Have a clear understanding of your personal life philosophy. Prioritize what you want. This will help you decide how to solve the problem. What is your reason for solving the problem? Do other people need to be informed? Are there future consequences to consider?
If you have a problem with another person, do you want them to like you or is it more important to you that the unacceptable behavior stops? Your goal must be considered.
Example: “I want to impress the ladies and it will keep my girlfriend from nagging me if I get a newer car. I want it now and there is this terrific red sports model that I like. When I go back to school, all my friends will envy me. It will make me feel important. That’s what I want.”
BRAINSTORM. Consider a wide variety of options. Collect as much information as possible. You may be able to combine pieces of information for a suitable solution. Create as many solutions as possible. Don’t ask if the solution will work. Be open to all ideas. You never know when something will pop up that seems totally out of the question, but leads you to a good idea. Encourage creativity and original ideas. Write them down. Give your brain time to percolate. You may be able to put unrelated ideas together in a way that will work for you. Sleep on your decision. Often the unconscious mind can create solutions you may not consciously consider.
EVALUATE YOUR ASSETS.
Example: “I could lease a car and not spend as much money. I could borrow my uncle’s car while he is working overseas. Jimmy wants to sell his car. It isn’t quite as nice as the red sports car, but is something I can afford.”
LOOK AT PROS AND CONS. Daniel Webster suggested taking a sheet of paper, drawing a line down the middle and writing pros on one side and cons on the other side. There are advantages and disadvantages to each possible solution. Weigh what is important against what is not important. Make a list of each advantage. Score advantages with a +1 to +10 and score disadvantages with a -1 to -10. Add it up.
Example: “Buying a new car: Advantage: Results I will get from my friends, +7. Pleasing my girlfriend, +6. Disadvantage: Getting another job to pay for it, -10. Talking my parents into loaning me the money for the down payment, -6.”
- FLIP A COIN. Pick a choice and consider how you feel about it. When flipping a coin, if you want one side to come up, you already know what you want. Recognize that choice.
- LIVE THE SOLUTION Walk through your solution mentally. Put yourself in the situation and live it. Allow yourself to recognize the feelings involved before going through with your decision.
- DECIDE. Choose something. If you need a solution immediately, pick one and do not jump around from one solution to another even if it is not the best solution. You may never have the perfect answer.
- COMMIT. Create an action plan and do it.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS. YOU…
- Feel overwhelmed.
- Decide too quickly. You are impatient.
- Feel dependant, fearful, inadequate.
- Ignore your feelings.
- Desire love or approval from others.
- Need security.
- Procrastinate based on self-doubt.
- Resign yourself to living with the problem.
- Want everything, are not able to prioritize.
- Obsess over the problem.
It helps to understand how you solve problems now. If you are good at solving problems, congratulations.
The situation may be an opportunity rather than a problem. Are you willing to accept the challenge with enthusiasm?
When solving a problem, remember, whatever your choice, make it your choice. Make the best of it and remember that you can always take a different direction later. Nothing lasts forever.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- How do you now solve problems?
- Does it work?
- Which solution style works best for you?
- The next time you have a problem that needs solving, how will you do it?