Problem-solving is something that we use in pretty much every area of our lives all the time. Of course we use it at work, but think of all the times you might also use it in your personal life- times when you are in conflict with friends or family, times you have encountered a unique situation that you don't quite know how to handle, or even times when your old ways of coping just aren't cutting it anymore. This is when problem-solving can become important in your life.
Problem-solving requires critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to process information in an organized and timely manner. Improving our skills in this area can have a profound effect on multiple areas of your life and learning to skillfully and confidently solve your problems can improve your self-esteem. So because of these reasons, I thought I would write this blog! Without further ado, here are 10 ways to improve your problem-solving skills!!
1. Focus on the solution and not on the problem. This tip is helpful for pretty much anything going on in your life and is because focusing on the problem stops your brain from finding any solutions. Thinking about a problem is negative thinking which will bring up negative feelings, and negative feelings will stifle creative thinking. So, thinking about possible solutions will help you to be more creative and help you to find solutions.
2. Make use of brainstorming. This process is best done in a group, and everyone throws out as many ideas as they can come up with. No one is allowed to criticize any proposed solutions during the brainstorming process because this will slow creative thinking. Instead, just write down everything that is proposed and keep an open mind. No answers are dumb! After you are done with the brainstorming, you can evaluate all the ideas for practicality or usefulness.
3. Take a break! This gives your brain time to mull the problem over on a subconscious level. Also, sometimes we are so urgent in our desire to fix our problem, that we will accept the first idea for a solution that we have and this might not be the best solution!
4. Mind your sleep. Adequate sleep is so important to many of our cognitive processes, including creativity and problem-solving! There also is some evidence in the field of neuroscience that REM sleep can positively affect your creative process, so make sure you get enough sleep. By the way, the latest research tells us that we actually only need about 7 hours of sleep per night rather than the 8 hours previously thought.
5. Work on your active listening skills. A lot of times when we are having a conversation with others, we will listen to form our opinion or our response. This isn’t really helpful because if your brain is busy thinking of what you are going to say next, then you aren’t listening to what is being said. If instead, you listen to understand, then you are more likely to hear what is being said. And if nothing else, this will help you to better define the problem and its parameters.
6. Regularly do mental exercises. This might be things like word games, playing chess, math games like sudoku, or reading.
7. Related to this, is the idea that starting a new hobby will help you improve your problem-solving skills. This is because it will help you to use your brain in new and unique ways which will challenge your creativity.
8. Create psychological distance from your problem. This one is a little bit complicated, so bear with me here. The idea is to step back from your problem which will help to decrease any negative emotions related to the problem. So instead of thinking “I have _________ problem”, try to think of it as someone else’s problem, try to think of the problem as unlikely, or try to take someone else’s perspective of the problem. This will help you to think more abstractly so you will be able to come up with some creative solutions.
9. When talking to yourself about this problem you are trying to solve, use language that creates possibility. So this would be statements such as, “What if _______” or “Imagine if ______”. This will open you up to considering different possibilities and different creative solutions.
10. Question standard procedures. So if you always do something a certain way, don’t assume that it’s the only or the “correct” way. Maybe it is, but try to keep your mind open to other solutions and other ideas. And not only keep your mind open but actively question if the standard way is the best solution.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you to improve your problem-solving skills! They can be tried for any sort of problem that you are going through. And as always, if you want to talk further about this, if you would like self-esteem counseling, or really if you would like to talk about any sort of issue that you are experiencing, please get in touch with me through the link above.