How to be a better problem solver
“Hey Mom, can you fix this?”
That could just as easily have said, Hey Dad, Hey Sis, or Hey Whoever.
Are you the person others turn to when they need a solution to a problem?
Sometimes we have a tendency to rush in and fix things for other people.
That’s especially true for our children. We convince ourselves that we are doing it so that we can spare them some hurt or pain. Or perhaps we get frustrated with their attempts and would just rather take over and get it done.
Sometimes we fix things for other people even when they haven’t even asked us to do it.
No wonder we feel stretched for time. When we become the go-to problem solver for everyone, there’s not a lot of space left for anything else – like finding solutions to our own problems.
Or perhaps you are a person who lets other people solve problems for you.
Many people are happy to pass along their problem to someone else to figure out. That’s partly because we think about problems as something to avoid, and partly because it becomes a habit to let someone else take care of it.
We can all benefit from becoming better problem solvers.
Fortunately there is one simple way to improve your problem solving skills:
Here’s the thing:
If people want to be good at solving problems, they have to practice solving their own problems.If people want to be good at solving problems, they have to practice solving their own problems. Click To Tweet
That’s important for 2 reasons.
First when we continually solve problems for other people, our kids included, we send a subtle message that they are not capable of doing it themselves. When we don’t feel capable, our confidence is undermined. If we don’t feel confident we are less likely to tackle problems that arise.
Secondly, the only way we get better at something is to practice it. Whether it’s a golf swing, playing the piano or learning how to find a solution, you have to do it to improve. When we remove the opportunity for someone else to solve their own problem, we cheat them out of their own learning.
Here’s a tip:
When you feel yourself rushing to solve someone else’s problem, especially your children’s, pause and say to yourself:
“This is not my problem to solve.”
Offer support and encouragement before solutions.
A client once said to me:
Life is about solving problems so there should be joy in solving whatever problems life brings.
That’s an interesting perspective.
Imagine what would be different if we approached problems joyfully. That perspective might even lead to some creative solutions. How we think about problems is no different than how we think about anything else in life. If we approach them as..well…problems, then we take on a perspective that creates a sense of hard work, difficulty, unpleasantness. And that makes us want to avoid it.
Problems are just another opportunity to learn.
Samuel Beckett said it well:
Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
That’s how you become a better problem solver.
Here’s one more tip:
When you hear yourself muttering about how hard this problem seems, remind yourself that you have solved lots of problems before – big ones and little ones. Say to yourself:
“I accept this challenge.”
Then start brainstorming options. If you are really stuck or need help, ask for ideas and then make them your own.
One last thought…
Sometimes a problem isn’t a problem at all.
We can make mountains out of molehills or fixate on things that in the big picture are not all that important.
Remember if it won’t matter a year from now, then don’t let it matter today.