How to Solve a Problem: 6 Quick and Powerful Tips

by Henrik Edberg


Image by nattu (license).

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Albert Ellis

“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.”
Richard Bach

Are you having a problem in your life right now?

If so, maybe these six quick tips can help you to solve it a little bit easier.

1. First, ask yourself: is there really a problem here?

Often we create problems in our own heads – as I mentioned a bit about a few days ago in Things May Be Simpler Than You Think – that aren’t really out there in reality. So relax a bit. And think about if this is really a big problem.

Is it something that will matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks? Life becomes so less stressful when you stop making mountain out of molehills (or just out of thin air).

2. Accept it.

When you accept that the problem already exists and stop resisting then you also stop putting more energy into the problem and “feeding it”.

Now it just exists (well, more or less, you might still feel a bit down about it). You can use the energy you previously fed the problem with – the energy that probably made the problem look bigger than it was – to find creative solutions to the challenge.

3. Ask for help.

You can ask people for advice on what to do and what they did in similar situations. But you can also ask for more practical help. You don’t have to solve every problem on your own and sometimes it feels better to have someone by your side, even if it is just for emotional support.

If you just ask you may find that people will often be willing to help you out.

4. Use 80 percent of your time to find solutions.

And only 20 percent to complain, worry and whine. It might not always be easy but focusing your energy, time and thoughts in this way is much more beneficial for you and others than doing the opposite.

5. Break the problem down into smaller pieces.

Solving a problem can sometimes seem overwhelming and impossible. To decrease anxiety and think more clearly break the problem down. Identify the different parts it consists of. Then figure out one practical solution you can take for each of those parts. Use those solutions.

They may not solve the whole problem immediately. But those solutions can get you started and might solve a few pieces of the it.

6. Find the opportunity and/or lesson within the problem.

I have found that there is almost always a positive side to a problem. Perhaps it alerts us of a great way to improve our business or relationships. Or teaches us how our lives perhaps aren’t as bad as we thought.

Finding this more positive part of the problem reduces its negative emotional impact. You may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you.

When you are faced with a problem ask yourself:

What is the good thing about this?
What can I learn from this?
What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem?

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{ 35 comments }

Positively Present July 10, 2009 at 3:54 pm

These are really great tips. I think #3 is especially important. I recently wrote a post called “why i need other people to change myself” and it deals with the idea that we all need other people to help us out at times. For some (like me!) this is hard to admit, but it is important to ask for help when it’s needed. This is a really helpful post. Thank you!

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

I agree, it’s not always easy to admit that and ask for the help but it can really help you out and strengthen the relationship too.

Gabriel Hummel July 10, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Great article Henrik

Your first point is something that I find can really help the most when encountering problems in life

Whenever I am faced with a problem, I like to sit down and ask myself

“How does this really affect me?”

By asking myself this question I find that I can gain perspective on nearly and problem that arises in my life. From a minor car accident to spousal arguments, asking this question can really change your outlook on many problems and then allow you to deal with them in a proper fashion (as you have described)

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

That’s a really good question, thank you for adding that one!

Orri July 10, 2009 at 5:09 pm

i’m a lil gal wit huge problems..
but now i think things are simpler in reality..
cheeriO! :D

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

Awesome, best of luck! :)

Vincent July 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Hi Henrik,

The worst thing that can happen is when one is in denial that he/she has a problem that needs to be fix. It is only when one can accept that they have a problem, then they can try to fix it.

Cheers,
Vincent

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:40 am

Very true, Vincent, and the longer that someone is in denial the worse the problem often tends to grow too.

Suzanne July 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I like #4. I’ve forgotten to do that recently and it was a great reminder. I hate being overwhelmed by the problem and would rather be working it, inside and out, than whining about it. ;-)

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:41 am

Thanks! Yeah, it’s not always easy to remember that, you can easily slip back into old mindsets and get overwhelmed instead of being proactive.

Scott July 11, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I think Vincent comment is very true:)

I have also noticed that many people get worked-up emotionally when a problem arises, so they become reactive instead of proactive, like you have already metioned in your previous posts. So whenever I have a problem I try my best to look for solutions to that problem instead of reacting in a way that I may regret in the future.

Great Post :)

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:43 am

That is a great tip. Not always easy to implement but if one can stay conscious and choose the reaction and action instead of becoming reactive and defensive etc. then it works really well.

Kathryn Lang July 12, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Great tips – but I would have to say that I don’t really like the second half of #4. The rule in our home is “if you can’t say anything good, positive or uplifting then keep it to yourself.” Negative comments or complaining – even when they only get 20% of the time – have a way of taking over a situation!

There is ALWAYS a silver lining – you just may struggle to find it in some situations.

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:33 am

Thanks! That sounds like a good rule. I have found that when I set a time limit to just focus 20% of my time on the negative stuff I quickly think that pretty much all of it is silly. And I start thinking more positive and constructive thoughts instead.

loic July 12, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Ask someone who knows and the 80/20 principle :)

Put the fear aside. It’s just another problem.

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:34 am

Thanks for the comment!

J.D. Meier July 13, 2009 at 10:02 am

Good stuff.

I’m a fan of boiling problems down into one-liner statements and keeping them solution-focused … for example, how do blah to achieve x?

When a situation doesn’t have a great solution, I find solace in the idea that I can at least make my best play for the situation.

I also like to cycle through the Six Thinking Hats to get different perspectives on the problem and I agree, no problem can withstand sustained thinking, so sharing a problem with a great sounding board is the way to go.

Henrik Edberg July 13, 2009 at 10:35 am

Thanks for sharing, good additions! Haven’t heard of the Six Thinking Hats before though, think I’ll do some googling on that one.

Srinivas Rao July 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Great post. I think that #6 is one of the most important things. My challenge of trying to find a job I realized has been the opportunity of a lifetime in terms of giving me time to start a blog, work on entrepreneurial ideas, and become relatively good at surfing.

Business Communication July 14, 2009 at 2:20 am

May we add one: Don’t consider it a problem but a miscommunication of managing the interests of two parties. At times there is no way around the mountain but the perception is something we can all adjust.

Kaizan July 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

Hi Henrik, Great post as usual.

I would also add that problems are a part of achieving success.
If you are avoiding problems, you are avoiding success.

Oh, and I think this is a great quote:
“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

Stephen - Rat Race Trap July 15, 2009 at 1:37 am

Henrik, very nice stuff!

“Is it something that will matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks?”

This is so true. The chances that your “big” problems now will matter in a decade are almost nil. Excellent article. Thanks!

Kim July 16, 2009 at 1:50 am

I especially find tip # 1 to be sound. Many people worry about things that are not significant or will not matter a month from now let alone a year. Once I decided that worry was killing my motivation for accomplishment, I really started to pay attention to what was a problem and what was not.

Inspirational Quotes July 16, 2009 at 8:53 am

Hi Henrik,

I like #4 Use 80 percent of your time to find solutions.
Oftentimes, we spend most of our times to the problems itself, not to solutions.
Very useful tips, Henrik. Thanks.

Arswino

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching July 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Thanks for this post — asking for help has definitely been an edge for me, and now that I’ve been doing it more recently, even when dealing with famous authors, I’ve found people much more willing to assist me than I thought they’d be. Best, Chris

Tim | Inspiration Central July 19, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Very helpful post.

I particularly liked [b]5. Break the problem down into smaller pieces[/b] and [b]6. Find the opportunity and/or lesson within the problem.[/b]

There’s not one person in the world who couldn’t use that advice.

Conrad Dixon July 20, 2009 at 4:28 am

Wow, really great post.

What you’ve done is that you’ve broken down the “law of attraction” into 6 steps… brilliant.

Peace,

Conrad

Hot Alpha Female July 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm

There is one particular point that I loved the most. And that was the acceptance one.

So many times and especially for women they find it hard to validate their own feelings.

They are always saying, I shouldn’t feel this way, I don’t want to feel this way and ra ra.

Acceptance is more along the lines of. Well I feel upset, frustrated, hurt and that is perfectly ok.

I accept that this is how I feel right now.

So now that I have recognised how I feel … how would I like to feel.

I think sometimes whether we be men or women, we can get lost in our emotions instead of actually seeing what are emotions are trying to point out to us!

So definitely learned something there. Thanks!

Hot Alpha Female
Your Go To Girl For Dating Advice
http://www.hotalphafemale.blogspot.com
Latest Post: The “He’s Just Not That Into” Rules. Do They Really Apply?

Sarah July 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I am just wondering if I can use the same concept when there are tons of problems in my life at the same time. Life without problems wouldn’t be life at all but when a few problems appears, it is really difficult to find the strength to actually sit down and think about them rationally. Perhaps, the one thing we can do is work on each of them one at a time.

River July 28, 2009 at 8:07 am

Hi.. Henrik, What a great post!! I like #5 n #6. It helps to change my view of my problem. Thanks!

Rohit Prakash August 5, 2009 at 8:59 am

Henrik,

Nice post. Most of the points above are applicable often. I am in a situation where I am unable to find either a solution or an alternative. Some problems are like that. As I wrote in one of the posts of my blog, the cause of the present problem is a mistake that I did few months back. A mistake of surrendering my choices to others.

Your entire blog is very informative except the advertisement of those fat ladies appearing on the left column. I request you to remove such ads. Just a request and nothing more.

Shani from Pop Prayers August 7, 2009 at 1:18 am

This is great. Spread the positivity. More people need to hear this. Thank You. Continue to spread the word for our nation with positive words at PopPrayers.com

Mariadoss July 9, 2010 at 7:14 am

Hi
it is very nice . i like this word very much..
What is the good thing about this?
What can I learn from this?
What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem?

Purushyottam Ghosh July 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I have soo many problems in my life that you can as well call me the “problem guy” ! :D Thanks for the informative article. Hopefully I can get rid of a few of these pesky problems with the help of your tips ;)

purnima July 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

i purnima brought to banglore . i in a problem, who to solve it i do not know?
before going to problem, i heard that banglore is a evergreen city but i think so it is surely not so because i found all over area of urine smell. it is very difficult to face to problem because as you know due to pollution very disease can occur but i am person face around the area and in also in our water. we are very difficult to face this situation day by day because we are using for our daily purposes .
please kindly help us to solve this problem as soon as possible. please please please

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