Updated: August 27, 2020
Problems are part of life and come in many forms.
They can be small and trivial such as not knowing what movie to watch this weekend (yes, that’s a problem); or big and serious such as losing your job.
Aside from its impact, problems can come as one giant wave, like a sudden romantic relationship break-up; or as small, “often-ignored”, ripples – such as getting into bad credit card debt.
Most individuals, when faced with a problem, would simply brainstorm for solutions – before finally choosing what they believe is their best course of action.
For example, we ask our friends and read film reviews, to decide which movie to watch. We look at classified ads, and tap our social network, to find a new job.
We seek emotional support from family and friends, to ease the pain of a break-up. And we start cutting expenses, and look for extra income, to manage our credit card debts.
However, while there is nothing wrong with doing just that, I believe there is a better way to approach life’s problems.
And lately, I tried to come up with a general and systematic strategy on how we once can overcome life’s challenges, both big and small.
So indulge me on this one, as I share with you what I came up with.
How To Solve Life’s Problems
Step 1: Disassemble the problem.
Problems are harder to solve if you attack it head-on. Instead, go into the micro level, and find the “micro problems” that make up the whole situation.
If you don’t know what movie to watch this weekend, the “micro problems” there are:
- You don’t know what’s showing in cinemas near you;
- You don’t know which recent movies are good; and/or
- You don’t know what type of movie you’re actually in the mood to watch.
If you don’t know where to look for new employment, the “micro problems” there are:
- You don’t know what type of jobs you qualify for today;
- You’ve been employed so long, you don’t know how to apply for a job anymore;
- Or maybe you just feel unmotivated and depressed over losing your job.
Step 2: Brainstorm for solutions to the micro problems.
Once you’ve disassembled the problem into less complex challenges, it would be easier to come up with a concrete list of tasks you can do to ease the situation.
In the unemployment problem, for example, you can:
- Update your resume and assess what type of job you’re qualified for;
- Ask your social network on how people find work nowadays; and
- Seek encouragement and moral support from your family and friends.
Step 3: Step back and look at the bigger picture.
If a problem can be broken down into “smaller pieces”; then it’s also possible that your current problem is just one part of a bigger, more complex issue.
For example, you often experience heartaches probably because:
- You don’t know how to handle a relationship;
- You tend to enter relationships under the wrong reasons; and so on…
Perhaps, your debt problem is just one part of a bigger personal issue such as:
- Your lack of financial discipline to live below your means;
- Having too many people who depend on you financially; and so on…
Step 4: Brainstorm for solutions to the macro issues.
Looking at the bigger picture often results in the discovery of your problem’s root cause, which must be resolved to prevent “history from repeating itself”.
So if you want to get rid of your credit card debts, then aside from addressing the “micro problems” of earning more income and getting rid of unnecessary expenses, you should also resolve the “macro issues” by:
- Increasing your financial literacy;
- Helping your dependents to be more financially sufficient; and so on…
One thing to remember… more than just finding “macro solutions” – one should likewise create a concrete list of tasks that will address the issues at hand.
For example, if you’ve decided that you need to increase your financial literacy (the macro solution) to address your lack of financial discpline (the macro issue) – then your concrete solution list can be:
- Start reading books about personal finance;
- Keep a journal of daily expenses;
- Set up an automatic savings plan; and so on…
Step 5: Consolidate your solution lists and convert them into action items.
By now, you have two solution lists – one for the “micro problems” and one for the “macro issues”. Your next step is to create a to-do list which will become your “solution plan” to your problem.
Take each item and put it in your calendar. It’s important that you set a specific date on when you will put those solutions into action.
Step 6: Monitor your progress, adjust as necessary.
The circumstances in our lives often change, that’s why you need to monitor your progress and check if there are any changes you need to do with your solution plan.
You’ll see that sometimes, along the way – you’ll encounter more problems (ouch!) OR that some problems have a way of just solving itself (yay!).
How to solve life’s problems:
- Disassemble the problem into “micro problems”.
- Make a solution list to resolve the micro problems.
- Discover the root cause by looking for “macro issues”.
- Make a concrete solution list to resolve the macro issues.
- Consolidate and convert your solution list into action items.
- Monitor your progress and edit your plan as needed.
That’s it! My attempt to come up with a system on how to deal with life’s problems.
What can you say about it? Do give your reactions and suggestions in the comments section below.