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It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail, Abraham Harold Maslow.
We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them, Albert Einstein.
If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient, Hilary Mantel.
Problem solving is one of the most essential skills in life. How you handle those challenges determines how successful you can be, what kind of person you are.
Let me offer you a model for problem solving:
- Define your problem. It is an absolutely crucial step. It involves: a selection process -we cannot solve all the problems at once!; clarify objectives, describe carefully the ultimate desired outcomes; discern if they are within our means, for example, if you are forty-three years old and three feet tall playing in the NBA is almost impossible, no matter how hard you try; accept that reality always imposes constraints; understand the nature, extent and root causes of the problem.
Do not ever try to solve all your problems at once. Typically, it is important to realise that problems can be solved slowly, but surely, and in a reasonable time frame – Give time to time!
- Analyse alternatives. Be creative and discern all possible options. Formulate and analyse different alternatives, like which solutions address causes instead of symptoms.
- Decision. It is the selection of the best alternative available among the various options proposed. It should be based on our objectives and adequate information. Its implementation needs to be realistic and feasible, as well as, the one which assumes a lower risk of execution.
“You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs”. Each big decision will require significant effort and sacrifice, and also you will need to abandon other initiatives, pursuits, projects, etc. to focus more heavily on the chosen one.
Make sure you have all the information available and have considered all possible alternatives. Ask for help from your friends and loved ones. Don’t make a snap decision, give a decision enough time to thoroughly weigh up the pros and cons, but without postponing it indefinitely.
Think carefully and thoroughly. Remain true to your own personal values and core beliefs, that you get what you are worth and you don’t undersell yourself. Your decisions will affect your quality of life, and consequently, they are very important.
- Design a plan of action so you can implement the selected solution. This step is about defining clearly what to do (the plan should be divided into tasks and subtasks and these tasks should be sequenced and prioritized), who will do it, where, how (What human, material, and financial resources are available? What are the standards and requirements?) and when (timing).
- Implementation. It is the realization of the tasks specified in the plan. It is the moment of perseverance, working hard, and finishing what you have started. It is what separates the losers from the winners (“Victory belongs to the most persevering,” Napoleon Bonaparte), what makes the difference: “The drop of water breaks the rock, not by its weight, but by falling many times!”
- Evaluation. Assess if the problem is resolved or not. Have the actions taken been successful in resolving it? Were the decisions adopted the right ones? Have the tasks been executed and completed according to plan? This evaluation should result in a constructive feedback and encouragement to improve the whole process.
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