The phrase is a well-worn one.  “Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution.”

This is a terrific principle, but it is easier said than done.

One of the realities of life is that there will always be problems that need to be confronted and dealt with and one of the keys to living successfully is finding effective solutions to these issues.

I’ve outlined 6 progressive steps that could assist you in becoming more resourceful when it come to finding solutions to some of the problems that may face you in business, family, finances or any other area of your life.

Don’t exaggerate the problem.  I’ve seen a lot of people who become focussed on the problem because in their minds, the problem is bigger than it really is.  There are a few things that are a genuinely big deal.  Divorce, the death of a loved one, a debilitating illness or injury, a family member with an addiction and bankruptcy are a few that I can think of, but most other things aren’t as dramatic as we can sometimes make them.

I’m a big fan of ranking things and use this to score problems out of 10.  A 10 out of 10 problem requires a lot of attention and causes a lot of stress, but some problems are just 3 out of 10.  Putting problems into context makes it easier to manage your emotions and makes you more resourceful when coming up with solutions.

Be optimistic.  Frankly, one of the great tests of someone’s positive attitude is whether they focus on problems or solutions.  As Henry Ford once said,

If you think that you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right!

In the context of solving problems this is a very important issue as a pessimistic attitude will hold you back from finding solutions and will probably make you cynical about other people’s efforts as well.

The next time a problem comes your way, don’t sigh and wait for the world to come to an end, immediately understand that there is a solution out there and it’s your exciting job to find it.

Henrik Edberg from the Positivity Blog has some additional thoughts on optimism that I have found helpful.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

Some problems are big and daunting, and because we don’t know where to start, we don’t do anything.  Sometimes, we just have too many choices.

Get out a pen and paper (or open a Word document) and start breaking down possible solutions into more manageable pieces.  Start small and then start taking action, you’ll be amazed at the progress you make and how much smaller the issue seems to be.

Change your language.  If someone comes to be with an issue that needs to be resolved, my first question is, “What do you think we should do?”

Automatically this shifts the focus from the problem to finding a solution.  Language is very powerful and enables us to change our way of thinking quickly.  Often when something goes wrong, the initial response is to find out who’s to blame.  There’s time for post-mortems later, maintain focus on finding a solution and you can minimise the damage that the problem has caused.

If you find yourself getting bogged down in problem-land, change the words that you are using and the questions that you are asking.

Put aside time to think.  One of the restrictions to effective problem solving is time.  In our busy days, it is easier and quicker to rant about a problem and come up with a knee-jerk reaction rather than consider a well thought out plan that may stop more problems from occurring in the future.

Steven Covey calls this the “Important/Non-urgent” time that we really should be scheduling into our diaries so that we can spend time coming up with creative solutions.

Brainstorming with others can be a helpful component of this, but don’t fall into the trap of just organising another meeting if you don’t have a clear outcome that you are after.

It’s also helpful to ensure that you spend time thinking by yourself.  This can be difficult as many people feel guilty if they look as though they aren’t doing anything.  Reading can assist this process as it can get the brain cells activated and taps into the creativity of others.  Many of my best ideas and solutions have come when reading great thought-provoking books.

Celebrate when a solution has been found.  We don’t do this just to pat ourselves on the back.  Celebrating can be a great way of consolidating a culture of focussing on solutions rather than problems.  It doesn’t have to be an extravagant celebration, but doing something positive to reinforce behaviour and feelings that you want to experience again assist in creating new habits that are much more resourceful and solutions focussed.

That’s my list.  Do you have any other suggestions?

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