A Systematic Approach to Solving Just About Any Problem

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A Systematic Approach to Solving Just About Any Problem


Problems can be difficult to solve especially when we know the issue but we do not know the steps to fix it. Problem solving has everything to do with figuring out the proper steps involved with your problem. And that is tough because we often think we know the steps involved only to come to find out that the steps we once thought were the proper ones were actually skewed a tad.

Let’s say that you’re trying to figure out why your sales are way off from – say last year at this time. You could placate the blame to the economy or to the financial woes banks have experienced or even a dozen other scapegoats, yet none of those seemingly pertinent arguments will bring you closer to solving the problem. Here are the rudimentary steps involved in solving a problem no matter its complexity:

  • Understand the Problem, so you know you're actually focusing on the real issue at hand.
  • Create a Plan, so you have a series of actionable steps to follow.
  • Keep Yourself Motivated, so you don't give up or get frustrated when it takes a while to successfully resolve the problem.

Before I return to the common problem stated earlier, let’s take a few moments to look at an example from the bizarre in order to see the clarity of the steps noted above.

Remember, we often think that our thought process and the reasoning behind it is sound and valid. Therein lies one of the conundrums of becoming adept at solving problems, often times that thought process is not sound or valid. Therefore, it is critical to understand the problem in its entirety and in the most objective manner possible.

Let’s imagine that you were a victim of an accident years ago that left you bound to a wheel chair. And let’s say that a salesman came to your office to discuss a matter when all of a sudden he takes a liking to your high-tech, motorized, super comfy wheel chair, and he offers to buy it. Of course you don’t want to sell it, so he takes advantage of your disability, knocks you down and steals your wheel chair. It’s clear the problem is that now you’re missing your means of getting around in the world, but that’s not exactly the crux of the problem . . . . The good part of this imaginary tale is you understand the cause of the problem: the idiot, rotten sales person stole your wheel chair. And the simple solution would be to find this jerk and get your wheel chair back.

Okay, there is a point to all of this. Let’s complicate the problem a bit by saying that instead of the salesman stealing your wheel chair, you woke up this morning only to find that your wheel chair is missing. You would probably begin to think of how this could have taken place and start to look for clues that led up to this problem. You find that the window to your house is jarred open and damaged leading you to believe there was a break in. Maybe someone saw something last night that could lead you to some clues or even an answer. Here is the key to the first installment of how to solve a problem: get as much information as humanly possible to be certain you are focusing on the crux of the problem.

Let’s go back to the real-world problem of your faltering real estate sales issue. If we follow our guideline of gathering information – enough so that we know we are aiming at the proper target, you might realize that the crux of the problem must be expanded a little to see the actual target: what do you do to alleviate lower sales . . . that is the true problem you are trying to solve. As you can see it is often easy to stride away from the problems true core target when first analyzing a problem.


Regardless of the type of problem, the first thing you need to do is reduce it to its simplest and purest form so you know exactly what you're dealing with. While you're doing this, you need to ask yourself questions to make sure you're focusing on the right things. Once you have your correct and simplified problem, you can move on and put together a plan to actually solve it.

Create a Plan

If you don’t have a way of finding the solution to a problem then the problem remains just that: a problem. We now know the result we are seeking, that is, how do we change our current sales slump issue. The next step in our problem solving model is to create an actionable plan. To figure out what is keeping you from reaching your result and moving forward with your life, you now need to plan your initial action. The first step you think of will lead you to other steps you hadn’t thought of as yet, and then to even more possible steps. Add all of the ones that appear rational to your newly created action plan.


Continue to add actionable items until you arrive at your solution. You know that along the way you will have to tweak something here and there, while doing so it will lead you to other actionable things you will need to add to your list and eventually act upon toward your quest for a solution. Alright, let me get back to the real-world problem.

The problem needling us is faltering sales and what do we do to fix it. So, the solution may look something like this:


1.       Do the things that made you successful when you first got into the business.

2.       Add to those things new methods of marketing and advertising that have come into play since you first became an agent.

3.       Follow your newly created marketing and advertising action plan as if you were brand new in the industry  . . . with the same zeal you had back then, leaving no possible method undone or thought of as ‘stupid.’

4.       Wait a reasonable amount of time for the actions performed above to settle into the marketplace.

What have we accomplished? Several things, but one item strikes me as indicative of the difficulties we all face when trying to solve a real-world problem: zest. As we grow older and we think our heads we are far wiser than before, we tend to lose our zest, our verve for acting on plans and ideas. We wave our arm in the air thinking our action plan will never work or thinking it’s much, too much trouble to actually do.

And you thought this article was about problem solving methodologies . . . and that brings us to another one of life’s most puzzling ironies: judging a book by its cover often leads to wrong conclusions. Most psychiatrists will point out that in life it is often beneficial to be and think in a child-LIKE manner (I didn’t say childish) because it is far more creative and we put less possibilities on the graveyard floor than we are prone to today.

The final step, and the one that often eludes many of us in our quest to solve our real-world problems is: motivation. Staying motivated has its roots grounded in being child-like. Remember when you wanted that first bicycle . . . now think of all the time and effort you put into getting that bike and think of how motivated you were. Intense  . . . right? Being able to focus in a manner similar to when you were a kid focused only on getting that bicycle is the part we forget to do well. Heck it takes time and energy to focus everything on one issue, one thing, demanding it from the world and not stopping until we get it. There is power in this child-like mental focus. It is this ability to hone in on something and to not let go until we are rewarded for our efforts that make some of us remarkably successful, while others drift with the current.

I think it’s best for you to come to your own conclusions at this juncture. And I trust I have provided you with some food for thought this morning, and most of all . . .  thanks for stopping by and taking the time to think with me this morning!



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