If you are anything like me, some problems seem to hang around like a bad smell and never get dealt with. They can feel too big, too daunting and very tricky to solve. Perhaps they keep us up at night or occupying time when we ought to be doing other things. So its no surprise that I regularly get questions from clients asking, “I don’t know what I want to do next in my career” or ” I don’t know how to start my career or lifestyle change”. We all ask ourselves these and many more questions, so you are not alone trying to solve these problems.
We all have trouble solving problems at times, especially with work, in our careers or at home. There is always the possibility the difficulty making a decision is because of too much choice, or the problem seems too big to start to solve, so never gets started. We all know that when the problem is dealt with we will feel better about it. Though when procrastination sets in and we move on to other things we tend to forget about it all. Only to be hauled up short again when the problem presents its self again. Well, help is at hand with a very simple magnificent seven-step model. We can apply it to most day to day problems or perhaps those tricky decisions that need to be made.
Making the first steps
The important first step to problem-solving is making sure that you have identified what the problem is. Sometimes easier in theory than in practice, as some problems can have many different levels and dimensions to them. Try to be very specific as to exactly what is the problem to be solved. For example, you may need more money, a birthday treat, new car or what exactly? This involves defining the problem you are going to tackle and making sure you know what it is. Its okay to break a big problem down into bits so you can deal with much smaller achievable chunks. This step is particularly important if you feel overwhelmed by a wide range of different problems. In doing this, it is important to choose a target problem that:
1) Will be useful for changing lifestyle or the choices you make
2) Is a specific targeted problem so that you will know when you have solved it.
3) Is realistic: is it practical and achievable?
One way of thinking about this process of clearly defining the target problem is to think of it as a funnelling process. Funnelling down from the general problem area to a more specific problem that you can tackle first. Needless to say, this is just the first step but a very necessary one to help you be clear on what needs to be done. Anyway, let’s run through the magnificent seven to see how it works for your problem to be solved –
The “Magnificent Seven” Stages to problem-solving
Step 1: As mentioned earlier, clearly define the problem and be very precise on that the issue is. For example what exactly do you want to change, the problem to solve or a choice to be made? If you want to pay the gas bill then how much is it exactly, when do you have to pay it by? Or perhaps what part of your career do you want to change, what part are you fed up with and why? Or is there stress or anxiety in your life that you want to be rid of? Be precise and realistic.
Step 2: Think up as many solutions to the problem as possible. You may, of course, find there is a very easy solution that you may not have considered so can sort things out easily. This is the benefit of being clear on what the problem you want to solve. However, if the problem is not that straightforward, think about the outcome you want, what is your goal what do you want to achieve exactly?
Step 3: Start to generate alternatives and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possible solutions. Make lists of things you can do and start to score them from 0-10 from least to most obvious solution or choice – 0 being less plausible and 10 being the most plausible actions to take to solve the problem. We will then start to see the best course of action for solving the problem.
Step 4: Choose one of the solutions and consider the consequences of the actions. I am guessing robbing a bank is not necessarily the best way to pay for a gas bill for example. Start to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each solution generated and sift out the top 3 actions you can take to start taking action to solve the problem.
Step 5: Plan the steps needed to carry it out. What resources do you need, who do you need to speak to for example. It might be your CV needs a revamp to be able to apply for a new job or perhaps you would like to update your social media profile? If you don’t have a social media profile then it might be time to think about one to showcase your talents. The point here is to start to do things toward solving the problem you have, take action that you can commit to and feel comfortable about.
Step 6: Carry out the plan from step 5.
Step 7: Review the outcome. Evaluate how things went, what more can you do, have you solved the problem? If not perhaps look at the list you made at step 4 and see if there is another course of action to take to move the problem forward. Many problems need to be broken down into their component parts so you may have to reflect on how the small action taken has impacted on the bigger picture. Don’t despair you are taking action which is the main point here. You can review and refine your actions of course but just be reassured you are taking active steps to solve the problem you have.
Clarity and Action
As you can see this problem-solving model helps to clarify the issue and how to take action. Though be clear at every stage the problem you are trying to conclude and what you can do to solve the problem. Its a model that you can use as many times as you like to find the solution. So run through the options you had to solve the problem at stage 3 and choose another if no resolution is found. You really need to spend some time getting to grips with what exactly are you trying to solve. Being woolly and undefined about the issues will lead to fuzzy and inconclusive answers. Leading to more worry and anxiety. Besides you need to know what it is you have solved when you have done it. Put another way its the measurement to your success.
Clearly, problem-solving and decision making is aimed at helping anxiety and the stress around the confusion of day to day problems. We can lose valuable sleep, feel emotionally drained and grumpy with our nearest and dearest. Just because we have a lingering problem that really needs to be sorted out. But because we don’t know where to start or it is poorly defined, we put it on life’s backburner, thus creating emotional turmoil in our lives. If nothing else today, try to be a savvy problem solver and you will be a little bit happier into the bargain.
So by following this simple but effective model, it helps narrow down problems & choices to become more precise and focused. It can help reduce the stress, procrastination and anxiety around making a decision or solving a problem you have. You may have a dilemma at work, need to change career or are returning to work after a break. No doubt with a number of worries about what to do and how to do it. The main point here is the magnificent seven gets you moving with the problem. You can take action and feel more in control rather than the problem controlling you.
We all have problems to solve at some point in our lives. So tricky and some straightforward. Some will end up causing us stress and anxiety at the prospect of the imagined outcome. However, taking action is the way forward. Being clear about what you have to do, who you need to speak to or get in to help out is a great way to start. So give the magnificent seven model to solving your problems. I am sure it will begin to shrink those seemingly big problems and give you a lot less of a worry into the bargain.