‘Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong.’
Norman Vincent Peale

Overview

Developing a positive attitude to problems can transform you into a happier, more confident person, and will help you feel so much more in control of your life. You can learn to respond to problems with enthusiasm and eagerness, rising to the challenge to show your stuff and actually amaze yourself with some of the results you can achieve! Positive problem solving is very much about how you view each situation.
Problems really can be seen as opportunities which could well provide you with a chance to get out of a rut you have been in for a while, or a chance to make a situation better. Problems are not necessarily the result of external factors or unpleasant events. Any new awareness that allows you to see possibilities for improvement brings along with it a problem for you to solve. This is why the most creative people seek out problems rather than avoid them. 

How you view problem solving is simply a matter of choice. You can view each problem as an obstacle, an insurmountable giant rock in the road if you want to. Or you can work out a strategy for navigating your way around it.

Problem solving is an important life skill because it is also a very useful tool to help you tackle immediate challenges or achieve goals. It is a skill because once you have learnt it you can use it repeatedly.

There are a variety of problem solving processes, and each process consists of a series of steps, including identifying an

issue, searching for options and putting a possible solution into action. It is useful to view problem solving as a cycle because sometimes a problem needs several attempts to solve it, or the problem changes.

The more you actively and positively embrace some of the challenges that you will inevitably have to deal with in life, the better equipped and more confident you will become. This will provide you with the opportunity to gather a whole raft of experience that will help you to solve future problems. You will also be able to help other people by sharing some of your experiences.

‘If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.’
Abraham Maslow

Problem Solving – Steps to Success

  • Be positive and view your problems as opportunities
  • Specifically, identify and understand each problem
  • Be creative and explore a range of options
  • Determine your goal to help you select your solution
  • Prepare a plan to implement your solution
  • Analyse and review your problem-solving approach.

Embrace Probortunities

Probortunity’ combines the words ‘problem’ and ‘opportunity’ to put a more positive spin on the challenges we face.  Rather than focus on the negatives, actively seek out all the solutions and possibilities to make positive change.

A problem has negative connotations of an obstacle blocking our way, whilst an opportunity is, of course, considered something rather more encouraging and affirmative. When confronted by challenges, try replacing the word ‘problem’ with ‘opportunity’.

How you view problem solving is simply a matter of choice. You can either choose to view problems as insurmountable obstacles and feel overwhelmed and defeated, or you can embrace the opportunity to use your solving and investigating skills to create something new, improved and inspiring.

Opportunity exists everywhere, and it is a skill in itself to be able to identify the opportunity hidden within a problem. Be proactive rather than reactive.

Look for the real issues behind the problem. What has gone wrong? Why? How could this have been prevented? Then explore possible solutions. What could be done to improve things? How could things be better? What is already working well? Can this be further built upon to solve the problem?

The SCAMPER technique is particularly effective in forcing you to consider questions that you would not normally ask and will encourage new ideas and solutions that you would not have otherwise thought of.

Brainstorming and creative thinking are also effective tools that will help you to find the opportunity in every problem.

Solving problems can be very challenging. Developing a problem solving process will help you to tackle each one in structured and comprehensive way.

The Problem Solving Process
  • Identify the problem and focus on solving one aspect at a time
  • Define exactly what the problem is in the clearest and most simple terms
  • Conduct a root cause analysis – work out exactly what the source of the problem is
  • Generate a range of potential solutions and make a short list of the best
  • Use the goal that you are trying to achieve to help you to select the solution
  • Prepare a plan of action and implement the solution
  • Review, identify lessons learnt and record for future reference.

Identifying and naming the problem will help you find an appropriate solution. Sometimes you might be unsure about what the problem is and you might just feel general anxiety or be confused about what is getting in the way of your goals. When you know exactly what you are dealing with you will feel more in control and actually less afraid. It is also important to have an understanding of what caused the problem. This will help you to put it into perspective and give it some context.

When you are clear about what the problem is you need to think about it in different ways. Seeing the problem in other ways is likely to help you to find an effective solution. This is where creativity can be really helpful in enabling you to explore all the options available to you.

From the list of possible solutions, you can sort out which are most relevant to your situation and which are realistic and manageable. You can do this by predicting outcomes for possible solutions and by being clear about the goal that you are trying to achieve. Your goal will ultimately be used to benchmark the success of your chosen solution.

It is also useful to check with other people what they think of your plan and invite feedback. When you have explored all the consequences, you can use this information to identify the solution that is most relevant and is likely to have the best outcome.

Implementing your solution will be easier because you will have so much more confidence just from knowing that you have really thought it through.

You can prepare yourself to implement the solution by planning when and how you will do it and who you will need to communicate with for support and cooperation.

Remember, just because you have worked your way through the problem solving process, it does not mean that that you will automatically solve your problem. It is advisable to have an alternative back up plan.

Problem solving is a skill and applying a problem solving process that you can learn and practice will only improve your ability to solve problems. It is really important to review how you did and make a record of what worked and what didn’t so that you can perfect your problem solving skills.

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