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Problems & Solutions

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

I'm overwhelmed by everything at the moment. This can interfere with our ability to solve problems - as we get overloaded and can't focus on how to deal with them. It's useful to have a framework to approach these. So this week we will be using Problem Solving Treatment to start to think about how to have a structure to dealing with any problems that arise - whether they be financial, relationships, time-management, job-related etc. We'll learn how to define problems, come up with solutions and make an ACTION PLAN. Like we've talked about before on Wakey (Growth mindset) we will start to look at problems as growth to solve rather than obstacles that leave me overwhelmed.

Stage 1: Problem definition: Often we are aware of something being wrong but we may not be very good at identifying what the (CORE) problem is. This is THE PROBLEM BEHIND THE PROBLEM. For instance the APPARENT problem might be that I don't have enough time in the day but the (CORE) problem is that I am disorganised or that I am task-switching too much. Or the APPARENT problem might be that I eat lots of unhealthy food but the (CORE) problem is that I shop when I'h hungry so the house is full of junk food. To get better at identifying the (CORE) problem keep asking WHY - and ask again for each answer. When you can't answer the question any more you are probably at the (CORE) problem. Here are some examples:

(Apparent) Problem: I'm putting on weight

WHY? Because I eat junk food

WHY? Because it's in the house

WHY? Because my partner does the shopping and buys lots of junk food

And here we are at the (CORE) problem.

(Apparent) Problem: I’m tired all the time

WHY? I’m not sleeping well

WHY? I’m not getting enough sleep

WHY? I go to bed at different times every night

WHY? I wake up at different times every morning

And here we are at the (CORE) problem.

(Apparent) Problem: I don’t want my partner to go out without me.

WHY? I want to control everything

WHY? When I don’t do it everything feels uncertain

WHY?I am overwhelmed by uncertainty

And here we are at the (CORE) problem.

Stage 2. Generate solutions. The trick here is to generate as many solutions as possible. Especially silly or outlandish solutions. This helps us get out of a rigid way of thinking, have fun, and open up creativity. e.g. for the problem above (my wife buys junk food) - solutions might be:

  1. Ask my wife not to buy junk food

  2. Tell the supermarket manager not to sell my wife junk food

  3. Hypnotise my wife so she doesn't buy junk food

  4. Ask my wife to hide the junk food from me

  5. Move out

  6. Have a discussion with my wife about how I want to eat healthily.

An extra step you can do here is write a pros and cons list for each solution. This helps make thinking clearer.

Stage 3. At the end of this process sit down and pick one to implement.

Stage 4. Solution Implementation. Once you've chosen a solution make a plan and write it down. The plan should be realistic and very specific - i.e. WHAT exactly are you going to do, WHEN are you going to do it, and WHAT will you do in case of a barrier. e.g. You choose: Have a discussion with my wife about how I want to eat healthily. Write down: I will DISCUSS this with my wife: TOMORROW EVENING after dinner. If we are unable to do it then I will do it THE FOLLOWING EVENING at the same time.

We’ve talked a lot on Wakey about the Growth Mindset. Once we've started looking at problems this way we can start viewing new problems as OPPORTUNITIES for creative problem solving rather than Obstacles that leave us overwhelmed. Each new stress or problem can be viewed as a chance to show our skills, find new solutions, and come out better overall, not worse.

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