Problems are an inevitable part of life, but we have choices about how to handle them. We can avoid or deny problems, which often makes them bigger, or we can be proactive and resolve them.
Some problems cannot be “solved,” only resolved. We often need to practice acceptance. For instance, if I consider dying a problem, then accepting that ultimate reality is the only resolution. However, even problems that may require a large amount of acceptance can also benefit from problem-solving some of their components. For instance, I am not able to avoid death, but I can have influence over many aspects of it. From a self-empowering perspective, acceptance is often Plan B, with active problem solving being Plan A.
Here are five basic steps for effective problem solving:
- Define the problem—Understand the specific nature of the problem. Some problems are large and may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable problems.
- Brainstorm—Come up with as many solutions as possible. Let your thoughts flow freely, and keep going until you run out of ideas. It may be helpful to get input from a friend or a therapist.
- Evaluate—Assess the solutions that you came up with. Consider how realistic they are, whether they are likely to work, and whether they have any consequences.
- Select—Now that you have thoroughly evaluated possible solutions, choose the one that seems best.
- Create a written plan—Having a written plan can be helpful. Include when you will start implementing the solution and what you will need to make it successful. Then put your plan into action!
Problem solving takes practice. You will make mistakes, but don’t give up. With time and effort, you can learn to solve problems effectively.