How to Solve a Problem

Most of us worry, or have worried, at some point. Some people do it constantly. A worry is yet another example of a negative thought getting in the way.
problem solving Unfortunately, as worries circulate in our mind they gain momentum, increasing in size and magnitude. What worrying doesn’t do is solve the problem.

Here are seven steps to solve any problem…

1) Identify and define clearly what the problem is.

Firstly – do it on paper (or a computer screen). Especially if you have a significant concern, its easier to get facts clear if you write things out. When you try to define your problem(s) you may find there isn’t actually a problem at all. If there is more than one, go through this process separately for each one. Be as specific as you can.

2) Generate possible solutions

This used to be called brainstorming – I think we’re now supposed to say “blue sky thinking”. Basically write down any ideas that occur to you without editing. Be as creative and as imaginative as possible. Get as many ideas down as you can.

3) Select possible solutions

Now start editing and discard the inappropriate or unrealistic solutions on your list. Hopefully they’ve done their job to leave you with a workable list – or you may find you’re left with only one solution already. If there are no solutions left? Sometimes you do have problems where the answer is “do nothing”, or there is nothing you personally can do at the moment. If you worry about world famine or global warming, you may discover there is nothing you can do on an international scale, but have to content yourself with some local initiative.

4) Pros and Cons of each solution

Assuming you are left with more than one possible answer, look at each carefully and try to list the advantages and disadvantages of each.

5) Choose the best solution

At this stage you should have written out all you can about the feasible possibilities – its time to make a decision.

6) Plan of Action

Yes, its easy to forget this bit! Having decided on the best solution, breakdown and plan the steps to put wheels in motion. Include some sort of time frame and ensure that if the plan involves others, you communicate with them. Then get going.

7) Review

This isn’t always necessary (or desirable), but for some problems, especially where changing to another solution is still possible you should review how things have worked out. Ideally set a review date at the planning stage, don’t review at the first “wobble”. If necessary, revise the plan or go through the process again in light of this new experience.

Even if the problem is now behind you, it can be useful to review as part of reflective learning – which we should all be doing as part of our personal development.

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Monika @ The Writers Manifesto October 18, 2007 at 1:16 am

Hi David,

That was a really nice and concise blog post. I also love the image you are using it so clearly portrays the message.

Good luck with the entry and thank you for participating.

Kind regards
Monika 🙂

Dee October 22, 2007 at 8:06 am

I agree with Monika, very concise blog, but great message.

Corinne Edwards October 23, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Stumbled this post immediately!

Love to see a really excellent article in the personal growth area!


Travel Betty October 24, 2007 at 4:50 am

Great post, I can definitely put these steps into action right now! Instead of doing what I normally do, which is complain about it until the situation changes itself 🙂 Usually not to my benefit.

Douglas Woods November 1, 2007 at 3:39 pm

This is a great post, thanks.
I totally agree that worry is just another example of a negative thought. Little is ever done through worrying, it is action that achieves things.


Fastest Car August 29, 2008 at 1:21 am

Thanks David for this great and epic blog post about solving problems. I am a psychology major at UCR and I’ve been pondering some questions and why some people have certain problems. This post, if I can make it a little more simple to understand to my patients, they will be able to solve some simple problems on their own. I’ll show this post to my professor I’m sure will appreciate this and show it to his future classes = ]. Thanks again David!

Fastest Car’s last blog post..By: Sports Car Insurance « Fastest Cars

Peter Lunn December 20, 2008 at 10:09 pm

A very helpful post David – thank you. I especially like the first point. I think the act of slowing the mind down and putting pen to paper can often help to become more objective about the problem – and therefore possibly even finding a solution there and then!

I find too, that sharing a problem with a trusted, wise and positive friend can also help.

Personal Growth April 2, 2010 at 9:53 pm

got here from google and I must say that you have summed it all. I think the last aspect of feedback and review is very important. Equally important extension is to accept it in a positive manner and be ready to face any good or bad consequences. You need to stand for decisions you make …………..that makes a confident and intelligent person.

hazirah November 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

hai! may i know where do you refer to build this article? when? and who is the writer?

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