“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”—Albert Einstein
Around ten years ago when I began my entrepreneurial career path, I remember the feeling of closing the door to my new, empty office space and saying to myself “I’m responsible for everything that happens here”. Saying that gave me a chill, and I felt the powerful feeling of freedom that came from being my own boss for the first time! I felt incredibly inspired, and excited for whatever the future might hold. I knew that owning a business wasn’t going to be easy and realized soon afterwards that there was a lot that I didn’t know and needed to learn.
The first thing I realized about running a business is that all problems start and end with me. At first, my problems felt very personal, and I would become distressed, angry, and frustrated before they even began. I knew that continuing this state of mind was unhealthy and unproductive and needed to change. For the first time in a long time, I began to listen to my inner voice and told myself “that every problem has a solution”. Sometimes I had to tell myself more than once, but eventually I got into a new rhythm and my problems began to lose the power that they had once held over me.
I became more productive and much happier. I began to further challenge myself and study what it truly meant to be a leader. I did this by connecting with other leaders and entrepreneurs and learned how they solved problems. One of my mentors gave me this advice: “Never hesitate when a problem turns up, handle it immediately, no excuses”. I took his advice to heart and began to incorporate it into my personal and business life. Never again would I procrastinate on or ignore a problem, and I began to look at them as part of the game of life. Games should be hard and challenging, but we need a winning strategy to succeed. When I began to think of life as “a big game” my problems seemed less overwhelming and easier to tackle. When problems are ignored or swept under the rug, they become much bigger, more difficult, more complicated, and overwhelming. Action is the opposite of procrastination and the most important step in moving forward with our lives.
EVERYONE HAS PROBLEMS
We all have problems, that’s just part of life, but how we handle, and process problems is often the difference between success, failure, and happiness. We’re taught that failure is never an option and are judged by how well we conquer our problems, but failure teaches us important lessons. I’ve always believed that failure is part of the formula that provides inspiration to create new and easier solutions to fix problems and keep moving forward. Problems are merely obstacles and we can train ourselves to go around them, over them, or straight through them and still maintain our momentum. When we make problems too complicated, we lose focus, creativity, and intention, and our problems often get kicked down the road and become more difficult and more damaging over time.
Most problems are easy, and we already have the knowledge and experience to set them right. But some problems seem monumental at first, create fear, confusion, and often leave us stuck without understanding how to find a solution. Problems never seem like they’re fair or deserved, but they will be there regardless of how much we want them or not. One way to solve this is by developing a mindset where we see problems as opportunities. These opportunities and challenges help us to learn, grow, and improve, adapt, or adjust in a way that leaves us better and more skilled than before the problem existed.
This mindset has many benefits. Primarily, it reduces the stress that accompanies any new problem because the problem is viewed as a challenge or learning opportunity. It might feel overwhelming, but there are proven ways to break problems down and understand them better. Also, it helps compartmentalize the problem by thinking about the effects and potential solutions. This mindset also encourages growth by forcing us to adapt and improve. When solved, every problem when solved gives a better routine to solve future problems with a feeling of positive reinforcement. Not everyone is able to change their mindset easily, but knowing that we can retrain our brains creates the wisdom for better problem-solving in the future.
A problem is solved when a perceived present solution a perceived desired solution are the same.
PROBLEM SOLVING STEPS:
The Happiness Warrior’s Seven Step Problem Solving Cycle:
Step 1: Identify the Problem: Make a list of the issues, narrow it down and define exactly what needs to be addressed. Some problems are external and created by others but often the problem is self-created and becomes bigger than necessary.
Step 2: Analyze the Problem and define goals: Be specific and avoid letting emotions take over. For example: if we want to be happier, we need to learn what happiness means to us and think about actions we can take to make it happen.
Step 3: Brainstorm: The most important step, brainstorming provides multiple ideas of how to tackle a problem and take it apart for rationale problem-solving. I always say that if I don’t succeed the first time it’s my responsibility to find another way in. Giving up is never an option!
Step 4: Determine the cause: Is it a recurring problem? Take a critical look at current processes that created the problem and find a better alternative to prevent the problem from happening again.
Step 5: Develop Alternate Solutions: Carefully weigh solutions. The best solution may be more difficult but will always provide the best results.
Step 6: Implement the Solution: Take action after careful consideration and avoid reactive and dangerous decision making!
Step 7: Measure the Results: Are we happy with our success? Could we make better decisions in the future? We’re always successful when we learn new skills and acquire wisdom.
KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP
When I look back at my life, the most embarrassing and difficult problems occurred when I was too proud or ashamed to ask for help. Not asking for help was my way of avoiding the shame or judgment from others and often masked the problem with terrible results. Asking for help is a skill that we can develop to help make our problems less stressful and more productive:
Develop an understanding of the problem before asking for help. Don’t waste anyone’s time without being prepared beforehand
Treat people who are helping you with respect and kindness. People like to feel valued and will go the extra mile every time.
Help someone else with their problems, we learn from the experience as well. Helping is a problem-solving skill that can create a happier life.
Make people feel appreciated make sure to include them in the solution. Team work usually creates a better solution than being the hero and going it alone.
Problems teach us to about courage, and they provide us with valuable knowledge. Problems aren’t personal and if we look at them without emotion, they can make us stronger, more confident, and happier with the wisdom that they provide.