Simple Problem Solving: The Solution Within the Problem

Sometimes I have a problem I just can’t seem to solve. Like the other day when I left my car at a friends house and had no way to get to my appointment across town. I tried calling friends for a ride, but no one was picking up. Just when I was about to cancel the appointment, I remembered I left my car at a different friend’s house, the one who lives 2 blocks away!

I love telling this story because it reinforces the idea that the solution is always contained within the problem. If had taken a second to write down my problem, it would have gone something like this:

“I need to get to an appointment and my car is at a friend’s house.”

The solution to the problem starts right where the problem left off:

“My car is at a friend’s house, a friend that lives 2 blocks away.”

This particular situation is one of the more obvious examples of how you can find the solution contained within the problem, but I have had success applying this concept to more complex problems as well. This led me to break down the concept into a process that can be repeated over and over again.

Here is my 3-step process to find the solution hidden within any problem:

1. Define the problem.

If possible, write down everything you believe about the problem. What is holding you back? Who is involved? What aspects of problem are out of your control? How does the problem make you feel?

2. Step back, take a moment.

Take the problem you have written down and set it to the side (or turn your back to your computer screen). Close your eyes and just breathe for a moment. Focus on your breath. If you begin to think about the problem, catch yourself and re-focus on your breath. This is a mini-meditation exercise that help you solve your problem in step 3. After about 5 minutes (the longer the better), slowly open your eyes and pull out your problem.

3. Read the problem again, look for clues, and solve!

After you come out of the meditation, read what you wrote down and look for clues that will help you solve the problem.

Here is what you should be looking for:

  • False Assumptions – Are any of the “facts” not entirely true? Are you making an assumption that could be wrong?
  • Limiting Beliefs – Are your beliefs about yourself or someone involved preventing you from finding a solution?
  • Fears – Sometimes we know what the solution is, but we are afraid to take the necessary steps.

Try to pick out the false assumptions, limiting beliefs, and fears contained in your original problem statement. Spend time questioning your false assumptions, limiting beliefs, and fears. This will help you look at your problem from a new perspective, which is critical to finding a solution.

If you follow the steps and still cannot find a solution then simply repeat steps 2 and 3. If you have time, take a little longer on step 2 to completely clear and refresh your mind. With enough determination, you will uncover the solution to your problem.

Last Resort

If you cannot find a solution on your own, then it is time to talk to someone. A trusted friend or family member is ideal, but really anyone willing to listen will help.

The goal here is to bounce your problem off someone. If they are a good listener, they will make you feel better about your problem. If they are a good friend that knows you well, they will probably be able to point out a few things you are overlooking.

At my blog, LetGoAndFlow.com, I will listen and respond to anyone that e-mails with a problem. Visit my I’m Here to Help page and we’ll get your problem figured out.

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David DiGiovanni is the author of LetGoAndFlow.com. On his blog, David shares his experiences as he creates success and happiness by learning to “let go and flow”. You can also follow @DavidDiGiovanni on Twitter.