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How to Solve Any Problem

Updated: May 30, 2023


P = Problem

Identify ONE problem to solve. Many problems are conglomerates of several issues. By picking one, we break a large problem into small workable pieces.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see all of the individual problems that make up one big problem. Try asking ‘why.’

Let’s say, you’re always late for work.

Now ask “why?”

I’m late for work.


Because I’m never finished getting ready on time.


Because there’s so much to do with the kids.


Because I don’t have help.


Because my husband doesn’t know what to do.


Because we haven’t talked about it.

Five ‘why’s is usually enough to identify many problem dynamics. This process can also help you determine your motives for a goal or identify where breakdowns are occurring.

E = Emotions

Once you’ve identified a problem, check in with yourself and see how you feel. I guarantee your problem has some form of negative emotion attached to it. How do I know? Because that’s how we decide something is a problem. Otherwise, it’s just a situation or an event.

When addressing your feelings, you can take one of two approaches. You can work on coping with the emotions or on fixing the situation. These are separate skills. Sometimes you work on one and then the other. Most people have to work on both--sometimes even at the same time. For very difficult situations, sometimes a choice must be made between the two. Unstable emotions should be addressed first. There must be some level of emotional stability in place to allow someone enough functioning to address the situation.

To examine your emotions, first notice how you feel. What feeling is it? Fear? Anxiety? Worry? Anger? Identify the feeling--name it. Then say, “I notice that I’m feeling [emotion].” This moves you from the reaction position (joined with an emotion) to the responding position (observing the emotion).

Other simple ways to cope with emotions include talking, journaling, art, and writing. When you are ready, move on to the next step.

A = Analyze

Examine all of the moving parts. What are the causes? What options do you have? What solutions are available?

Identify the people involved. Imagine taking on their perspective and try to see the problem from their point of view.

When you look at the problem, ask yourself: What can you control? What is outside of your control? Even in the most hopeless situation, there are always aspects you control, even if it’s simply the attitude you take toward that situation.

This is a brainstorming session. Any idea is important--even the silly ones. Consider new perspectives and ideas. Test logic. Ask questions. Really dig into understanding the situation.

C = Contemplate

The contemplate stage is the settling stage, like the settling of a snow globe. It takes time for all of the glitter and flecks of “snow” to settle to the ground inside the globe. This is the time to step back, put things into context of the bigger picture, and let the ideas settle.

This will usually require the actual passage of time. Our brains need to rest, and then when we return to a situation, it often seems different.

Another idea is to reframe the situation in your life. Metaphorically, draw a square around your problem. Now slide it out, until it is larger, and there is more space. What would that look like in your life? What is NOT in that box? Are things in other areas of life going well? What is inside the box? What is outside of the problem box?

E = Equilibrium

This is the last stage of the problem solving model: bringing the problem, ideas, and solutions into balance with your values. By aligning everything with what is deeply important to you, you allow yourself an honest response and build an authentic move forward.

Of course, this means recognizing what your core values are. The simplest way to do this is by reading a list of common values and choosing which ones resonate with you. Then ask if the solution you have chosen aligns with those ideals.

As you make your choices to move forward, recognize that choice begets responsibility. We are responsible for our choices and the consequences of those actions. When we take responsibility, we enable ourselves to show up in the world empowered with intention and purpose.

Are you stuck with a problem?

Let's Talk.


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