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Problem Solving: 5 Basic Components

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“You think you’ve got problems – you should hear what happened to me last week…”

And on and on it goes – we cannot wait to get together and share our stories of what new disaster we encountered.

Problems usually require a decision of some kind. Most decisions are small, but even small ones have consequences.

For example:

I don’t feel like going to work today. But unless I do, I will soon be without a job and no income to pay my bills.

Sometimes it’s as simple as weeding my garden:

I would rather sit and read my book. Yet, unless it is weeded and watered, I soon will not have a garden.

Many of our daily decisions involve how we feel in the moment.

There are tasks that need to be completed but we put them off for another time because we just don’t feel like doing them.

When we continue to respond emotionally vs. rationally, we find ourselves in a mess. Many of our everyday problems are the result of not planning and putting in place routines to accomplish what needs to be done, when and how often. The problem arises when we simply do what we feel like doing instead of doing what we need to do.

When the results of our decisions have more serious consequences, it’s time to stop and carefully consider potential outcomes.

For example: Who is taking the kids to school today and who is picking them up?

We had assumed someone in the family would always be available. However, if family members are not available, the problem can now become more significant.

  • Is a neighbor available or a school mom?
  • How well do I know that person?
  • If no one is available, what other options do I have?

Depending on the age of the children, these may include allowing them to walk to school by themselves, etc. Part of this problem was not anticipating ahead of time that this could be a problem.

All decisions are based on identifying a problem accurately and the pros and cons of potential solutions. When problems become more and more complex, it becomes harder and harder to identify what the actual problem is.

For example: A husband and wife are getting older. Both are experiencing deteriorating health, but one spouse’s health becomes worse and requires full-time care. The healthier spouse does not want to put the other spouse in a long-term care facility and continues to try to do all the caregiving required, further compromising health issues of safety.

This problem creates a whole bunch of other problems such as finances, potential moving, emotional trauma, etc. The main problem, however, is how do I keep my spouse safe, keep my health from deteriorating and find assistance?

Options have their own problems:

If I continue to take care of my spouse, how can I guarantee that person will be safe should something unexpected happen to me? What costs are involved with in-home health care vs a caregiving facility? Will I need to sell my home? Is there a way for us to stay together? Can we hire someone full time to help?

When adversities come at a rapid and unexpected pace, we easily become overwhelmed. If we are not familiar with problem solving, we will find it difficult to step out of the emotional morass and apply some logical steps to help resolve our problem.

5 Basic Problem-Solving Steps

Step 1 – Identify and define the problem succinctly and accurately.

Step 2 – Generate Solutions.

Step 3 – Evaluate, prioritize, and choose one.

Step 4 – Implement solution.

Step 5 – Make an assessment – did it solve the problem?  If not, pick another solution.

In the following weeks, we will spend time with each of these steps to make them less formidable and easy to apply to whatever problem you may be facing.

As we apply these steps to our decision-making, it becomes easier and can save us from expensive and disastrous outcomes.

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