Overwhelmed by problems? Follow these 6 easy problem solving steps to get unstuck and find solutions to your problems - small and large. Use the 6 problem-solving steps to work through issues that are holding you back or creating conflict in your relationships.
Happiness is not the absence of problems it is having the ability to solve them.
Sometimes it is not enough to just cope with your problems or issues you need to be able to work through them and find solutions. People who can solve problems have a greater sense of control in their lives and increased well-being.
Problem Solving Skills can help you:
- work through issues
- overcome challenges
- maintain relationships
- gain a sense of control in your life
- develop coping strategies
- feel less stressed
- feel less overwhelmed
- feel less worry and anxiety
- be less frustrated about issues
Following a step-by-step plan to define your problem, brainstorm solutions, implement, evaluate and maintain solutions can make your problems or issues less overwhelming.
You solve smaller problems all the time – you consider alternatives – the risks and benefits of each, and then you choose the most appealing solution. You test out the solution you chose and reflect on the impact on the problem of that choice. If it is not working for you, you do something different until the problem is solved. Every decision you make involves problem-solving skills, although it may appear automatic, you are problem-solving and finding solutions continuously.
The process is the same for larger problems – Should we relocate the family? Should I take the new job? Should we buy that new car?
Henry Ford is quoted as saying:
Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.
Unlock the Stuckness and Find Solutions
Here’s how the process can work for you:
I have deadline to meet by the end of the week. How am I going to get it done on time?
You have named and defined the problem and now brainstorm and consider several different strategies – be creative, think outside the square and write them down! One of the strategies appears to have less risk and more benefits than the others, select, implement and evaluate. If this strategy is not working consider a different option. If the solution is working and you are on track to meet the deadline and maintain what is working for you.
Develop a Problem-Solving Self-BELIEF
In her TED Talk ‘Make Stress Your Friend’ Dr. Kelly McGonigal explains that a belief that you can solve problems changes how stress affects your physical and psychological health. The problem solving belief also helps you reach out to connect with others to build your stress resilience
6 Steps to Follow & Find Solutions to Your Problems
Put pen to paper, follow the 6-step problem-solving action plan and stop stress, worry and procrastination.
Step #1 Name the Problem and Definition.
- State the problem as clearly as possible (eg. I don't have enough money to pay the bills).
- Be specific about the behaviour, situation, timing and circumstances that make it a problem (eg. I need to pay the telephone and electricity bills and I don't have enough money to cover both bills this week).
Step #2 Brainstorm Ideas and Write Them Down.
- Be creative, think outside the square don't worry about the quality of the solution.
- Write down 5-15 possible solutions include ones that you would not obviously chose as a solution as these can spark a solution that may work for you (eg. do not pay bills).
Step #3 Check Out the Possibilities – Evaluate Alternatives.
- Cross out the less desirable options or alternatives.
- List the remaining solutions in order of preference.
- Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each and reorder solutions.
Step #4 Decide on One Solution.
- who will action the solution.
- how the solution will be implemented.
- when the solution will be implemented (eg. tomorrow morning I will contact the electricity company and ask for a payment extension or option to pay my existing electricity bill off in X instalments).
Step #5 Implement the Solution.
- Follow the Action Plan and implement.
Step #6 Evaluate the Outcome – Did You Achieve What You Wanted?
- Evaluate how effective the solution was.
- Do you need to make adjustments to the existing plan.
- Not happy with the outcome? Return to Step #2.
- Happy with the results? Now maintain the action plan.
Remember you solve problems everyday. Some problems are more complicated than others and a step-by-step process can help find solutions that work for you.
If you have tried to find a solution to your problem and you can't find a solution that works for you give the specific problem-solving steps a try.
Learning to solve problems will give you:
- a trust in your self that you can manage the stress in your life,
- reduce your worries and anxiety, and
- you will be happier and healthier.
If you can't find a solution on your own reach out, ask for help and connect with friends or family. Sometimes when the problem is sensitive and complicated remember you can always talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
Thumbnail Photo Credit: David Sherry & Allie Lehman
Photo Credits: David Sherry & Allie Lehman, Paul Jarvis