Do you feel like the world is collapsing on you? Well, you are not the only one and I am 100% sure this feeling was caused by a problem. A problem is a challenge or difficulty that prevents an individual from being in their ideal or preferred state.
Everybody has problems. However, what differentiates happy, productive and successful people from sad, despondent and unproductive people is their attitude to problems.
I am going to share with you 6 practical steps that will help you effectively manage and hopefully solve any problem you may face.
6 Key Steps to Problem Solving
1. Identify the problem: This seems obvious enough but in reality many people do not really understand the problem they are facing. They are more focused on the negative effect of the problem rather than what the problem is. For example, an unemployed individual may be fixated on the fact that he cannot get a job. However, his real problem might be that he cannot meet his basic needs- food, clothing, shelter. The lack of a job only amplifies this problem; it is not the real problem.
In order to identify a problem, you have to answer this question- What is the primary factor that is keeping me from being happy and satisfied to a reasonable extent? Please note, you can never be totally satisfied. Once you know what it is, you have identified your problem.
2. Understand the problem: Once you have identified the problem, the next step is to understand it. Why does the problem exist? What are its causes? Are there other issues related to it? These are all questions you need to answer before you can truly understand a problem.
3. Think about potential solutions: Now that you understand the problem, you have to think about potential solutions. Focus on the problem and think deeply about solutions, you can write down the potential solutions that come-up in your mind as you think. You need to put genuine effort into finding solutions to your problem. If you are dedicated with going through this process, you will almost certainly have more than one idea as a potential solution to your problem.
4. Screening of potential solutions: The next step is to screen the potential solutions you have come-up with. Evaluate the feasibility of each potential solution so as to determine the appropriateness or otherwise of going through with that solution. After going through this process, select the best solution.
5. Implement the best solution: You now need to implement the best option out of the possible solutions to the problem that you have identified. This is the most difficult part of problem solving because more often than not, you may not have the required resources and/or skills required to implement the plan that is meant to solve your problem. However, you need not get stuck at this stage; you should apply what I call the continuous progress strategy if you are in this position. The continuous progress strategy simply means you do the things that you have the capacity to do first and then look for ways of finding the required help to complete the implementation of your plan.
Let us look at an example, Frank lives in abject poverty and he has come to the realisation that he needs to get higher education to acquire skills that will help him get a good job with good pay. However, he has no money to pay for the required examinations to gain admission to the University. Frank realises that not having money to pay for the university entrance examination is only part of the problem, he has to first of all have the required knowledge to pass the exam before his not having money to pay for it becomes a pressing matter. Hence, he goes to the public library to study hard and improve his knowledge of the required subjects.
What Frank has done is to apply the continuous progress strategy. He has not halted his plan because of lack of finance, instead he has applied himself to the factor he has control over which is gaining the required knowledge to pass the examination. Thereafter, he can now seek for help either from family, friends or even people he meets at the public library who would have noted his dedication to his studies.
6. Review the problem solving process and make improvements: There is a high possibility that you will make mistakes in the process of trying to solve a problem. Therefore it is important that you review the process as you implement your problem solving plan for mistakes that you can correct and also for areas of improvement. This will make you a much better problem solver and you can even begin to help other people solve their problems too. We see this with some social workers who may be reformed drug addicts for example. They reach out to current drug addicts and learn from the mistakes that previous social workers may have made and begin to improve the process. This is usually easy for them because they were in the undesirable position of being drug addicts and from experience can avoid making old mistakes. They help those they are working with avoid such mistakes as well thereby improving the process of solving a big societal problem- drug addiction.
Problems are an integral part of life and it is important that we as individuals learn to manage and solve them. I hope this article will help you in that regard. You can let me know your thoughts on this article and problem solving in general by making comments below.