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Becoming an Effective Problem Solver – 4 Key Principles

If problem-solving isn’t a skillset that comes naturally to you it can cause even the smallest problem to seem overwhelming. We all have problems. There is no escaping that. But, it’s what we do when those problems arise that can determine how happy and successful we are in life. If you want to become a problem solver you have to be proactive and learn to face your problems without fear.

As with most things experience is a great teacher. A real problem-solving guru has likely mastered the skill through trial and error and maybe even a few tears. But, never fear, there are some key principles to take you from problematic chaos to problem-solving ease without actually going through the trenches.

1) Attitude is Key

The most important characteristic of a true problem solver is a positive can-do attitude. If you are sulking and wallowing in your issues, then you aren’t going to make much progress in resolving them. The way to approach any problem is to be positive and confident that you WILL solve the problem. Think about the things that you will learn or gain by solving the problem for motivation. Avoid negative language and step away from the situation when you feel yourself starting to sink.

2) Know What the Problem Is

It seems like this one would be a no-brainer but sometimes that’s not the case. We often get so caught up in the effect we are facing in the present that we don’t go far enough in the past to find the real cause. Don’t let assumptions keep you from getting to the root of the problem. You know what happens when you don’t get the root. It can and will grow back. If your problems tend to be reoccurring, chances are you’re just pulling at weeds.

Think about this situation. You’ve been late to work all week. You’ve been staying up later than usual and you’re tired the next morning, hitting snooze over and over, and not getting up at your usual time. The easy assumption is that you just need to start getting in bed at a decent time again and the problem will be solved. But if you just focus on your bedtime you are only going to be pushing back on the real issue and likely only causing more problems to form.

Instead, you need to keep digging until you find the real problem. Why have you been staying up later than usual? Because you’ve been working late and it puts your whole evening routine and personal obligations behind schedule. Why have you been working late? You’re not only doing your work but a co-worker has recently been pawning their work off on you as well, causing you to be overwhelmed and still in the office way after the work day should have ended. Bingo. A good strategy is to ask yourself what the cause is until it doesn’t make sense anymore. You could ask yourself why the co-worker doesn’t want to pull their own weight, but then, that’s their problem.

3) Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Approaching any problem logically requires a level of awareness. Evaluate what your strengths and weakness are both personally and in the situation at hand. You’ll be more confident for recognizing your strengths and you’ll be able to prepare ahead of time to better manage any anticipated struggles. You can then determine if you need additional help or if there is a common weakness that a lot of your problems share. If you find that you are constantly battling against the same personal shortcoming you may want to consider if there is an opportunity for you to learn and grow as a person. It may be as simple as practicing patience or learning how to use a software program. The key is to increase your awareness so that you can overcome your weaknesses and leverage your strengths.

4) Break it Down

Last but not least, if it is anything more than a minor blip break it down into smaller tasks so that you can tackle them one at a time and at a slower pace. Trying to tackle a huge problem all at once isn’t just overwhelming, it’s unnecessary. Don’t be intimidated by the problem no matter how big it is. Most everything is one step at a time. Unless you are jumping rope and that’s not a problem unless you fall.

Do you have other ideas on how to become an effective problem solver? Leave a comment below!

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