Although it might be wonderful to live a worry-free life, this is not how the world works. Life is constantly pushing us out of our comfort zone. Just when we think, we’re moving ahead, something unexpected happens to stop us in our tracks.
Since it’s unrealistic to aspire to put an end to all your problems by making perfect decisions and doing the right thing all the time, your best option is to tackle your problems head-on.
Here are some suggestions to get better at solving problems.
Use a Simple 3-Step Problem Solving Technique
Since problems upset us, causing us to fret, worry, or fume, we rarely pause long enough to define them. Problems preoccupy our attention. We dwell on how they frighten us, affect our needs, or frustrate our desires. Feeling helpless or hopeless doesn’t help us resolve our current dilemma.
The best way to deal with problems is to engage your critical thinking skills.
Here are three steps to resolve a problem:
First, pretend it’s not your problem. Instead, objectify it. Release the subjective pressure of owning the problem. This objectivity gives you more room to think clearly. Imagine you’re helping someone else solve the problem. Ask them about the nature of the problem. Since it would not be your problem, ask questions about what, where, when, and how the problem showed up.
Next, imagine your ideal outcome. What would it be like if you resolved the problem? Visualizing a happy ending will trigger your subconscious mind to generate insights.
Finally, brainstorm all viable solutions. Write anything that comes to mind. You can brainstorm alone or with others. Once you have a lengthy list, eliminate the most unrealistic ideas. After you’re down to a brief list, test out your ideas. One of them might work.
Get out of Your Own Way
If problem-solving techniques work better than feeling helpless or hoping the problems will just go away on their own (which sometimes happens), why doesn’t everyone just learn a few robust techniques and apply them to resolve their problems?
It’s because one of our flaws as humans is that we are brilliant at getting in our own way.
We get in our own way through strong emotions. Emotional overwhelm shuts down the executive function of the frontal lobe and activates the fight-flight mechanisms of the basal ganglia and brainstem (a.k.a. the lizard brain).
We also get in our own way through the use of mind-altering drugs or medications. For instance, people often use Valium to calm down after stumbling upon a distressing problem. How long does Valium stay in your system? Since Valium has a long half-life, it can take as long as ten days for this drug to flush out of your system. It’s hard to solve problems when you feel too drowsy to think clearly about them.
Ask for Help
Problem-solving techniques won’t work if you don’t have the right information to come up with excellent ideas. If, for instance, your car breaks down, using problem-solving techniques won’t help if you don’t know the first thing about fixing a car. It makes more sense to find a car mechanic. What is a complete mystery to you is elementary to someone who has knowledge and experience.
Everyone Has Problems
Problems ebb and flow in and out of our lives like the tide. Some people have serious problems; others trivial ones. Some problems arise like tsunamis, threatening to destroy everything in the way; others are mere inconveniences. The best we can do to reduce the frequency and gravity of our problems is to get better at solving them.