Problem Solving

Problems are a part of life. If we did not have some kind of barrier, human beings would not learn to innovate, grow, and persevere beyond them. It is when problems become overwhelming, complex, and misunderstood, that creates stress and personal difficulties. Frequently the major problems in life are perceived as issues beyond our control. The key word here is perceived.

More times than not, the way we look at problems is the crucial element as to whether we persevere and manage the problem, or fall further into a problem which is most complex. Obviously, this simplifies the matter, and problems often cannot be explained in simple terms. The purpose of this discussion is how to mobilize your energies to address, and hopefully eventually solve problems. Below is a set of criteria that describes different kinds of problems.

1. The problem involves interactions with others and expectations.
2. The problem is perceived to be a certain way.
3. The problem has been created by a violation of responsibility, trust, or unfaithful behavior.
4. The problem is a natural consequence to societal expectations and generally recognized responsibility.
5. The problem is the result of something or someone changing.

Generally financial, personal and social problems include these elements. How do we tackle the situation when it arises? Below is a list of important steps that can be applied:

>Examine the root causes of the problem. Using the assumption that everything is a natural system, there is usually cause and effect in action somewhere.

>Evaluate your assumptions (beliefs) about the situation. Remember, the way you may be looking at the problem may be incorrect at first. Be able to test your assumptions to either validate or discard them. Keep the ones that can be backed up. Now you have a baseline for approaching the problem in a targeted way.

>Don’t guilt trip yourself, but truly examine the problem using the five elements noted above. Some of it you may own, other parts may be totally outside of your control.

>Now determine action steps that you can take to begin to intervene and resolve the problem. The intervention may require additional assistance from others, or simply some tangible changes from you. Remember, problems happen usually as part of cause and effect. Find the sequences in the system that can be modified.

>Conscious effort is required. Determine if the action plan requires you to eliminate an undesirable behavior, change a habit, or let go of something that is holding you back. All change should be socially respectful, lawful, and moral.

Apply this methodology the next time you have a complex problem. Evaluate the results. The approach is helpful on both an individual and organizational level.

20120209-144003.jpg (photo by: Doug Butchy @dougbutchy)

Is Life Slipping By You?

Is Life Slipping By You?

At first glance, the title seems a bit over simplistic, however as you read on, the title of this article will gain more depth. For most of us, the task of living is becoming fast paced, riddled with many demands, outside expectations, and multiple commitments. In many ways, our success is prefaced on our ability to become constantly immersed in seemingly important and admirable things. Like the parable of the boiling frog, we remain unaware of the implications of our busyness. Before long, a dilemma strikes, and we realize that we have been missing out on truly important things, and life is slipping by.

As I enter my 40s I find myself constantly reflecting on many important people and activities that have become filtered out as a result of the complex professional life and busy demands of family and other crucial activities of daily living. I have also marveled over how 20 years ago, the perspective of time and opportunity appeared limitless. There was less worry about things slipping by.

How many of us actually stop and think about how the really important things, are getting filtered out by what we “think” is important. In a sense, do we look back at the previous few years with regrets that we have? In all the supposed importance, are we really letting what is truly important slip away? Are we letting other things cause the richness of our lives to slip away? Regrets are sometimes irreversible.

In many ways we delude ourselves and believe that we are where we need to be, but later regret our positions because we did not pay attention to the truly important. We haven’t done the deep reflection and inquiry needed to identify what is truly important in our hearts.

At this point, I would challenge everyone reading this to develop a working list of the things that upon reflection you are missing out on, because you have let it become filtered out of your life. Then, create another list of things that appear to consume your time. Compare the findings. What does it suggest?

Perhaps another way is to do an old fashion “time study”, just to allow you to engage in pattern recognition. This would identify important trends in how your time is spent each week. Compare those findings against the things that are most important and/or those things that you are finding “are slipping away”, and you are fearful you are missing. The results however derived could be sobering, and result in a personal call to action.

I’m not sure the author of the saying: “Time waits for no wo(man).” But it is true. For many of us, we are squandering our time with seemingly important things, that are in retrospect, keeping us from the important. What are we letting slip by?

The Remains of the Day – Learn to Celebrate Your Days

Often at the end of the day, there are times to pause and reflect. Reflection is a healthy activity if it can be married to instituting improvement. For many people, the painful nature of the day is a reminder that leads to avoidance. Emotional life for some is not an activity that has much value. Survival with basic human needs is most important.

How do we measure the importance of the day that we just wrapped up? Do we celebrate our victories, or do we commiserate about our failures? Do we attempt to put proper closure on our day, and use the information to learn what we need to do differently? Do we quietly appreciate the richness of what we participated in for this given day?

Celebrating our days should not be taken for granted. We should be appreciative for what we have, and learn to define the “remains of the day” as another gift that we can move forward to the next. I have found that looking at the day as how we added to something, or left something better off, should be viewed with appreciation and meaning.