Wednesday Words of Wisdom: On Problem Solving

Written by Martha on March 30th, 2011

When we have arrived at the question, the answer is already near.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finding a solution is always easier when the problem is clearly defined. Often we get stuck because a situation is complicated by interpersonal relationships, past history, or strong emotions.

Asking yourself “Who?, What ?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How?” questions can help solidify the actual problem and strip away the swirling mist of doubt and uncertainty. Try it!

Write down each of the 5 W’s and an H along the left side of a piece of paper. Then next to each beginning, write a complete interrogative sentence including the some form of the pronoun “I”. My favorites are:

  • What do I truly value?
  • What am I willing to do?
  • If not now, when will I be ready to…?
  • What result am I looking for?
  • Why am I stuck?
  • What is stopping me?
  • Who can I ask for counsel on this issue?

Now go back and answer the questions as quickly as you can. Write anything and everything that comes to your mind.

The next step is to condense your answers into one theme statement. You might want to put the page aside for several hours, or until the time you are most alert. Then reread your thoughts, circling the key points and adding more that come to mind. Now describe your problem or situation in one sentence.

Turn the sentence into a question. That is the true question! Answer the question. That is your solution. Break it down into actionable steps. Then, just do it.

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