Solve Your Problems by Exercising Choice

by Mike Lally on January 23, 2014

Even though we like to think we are independently minded thinkers, open to new ideas and experiences, the reality suggests something a little different. Perhaps it isn’t particularly pleasant being branded as predictable, and generally intolerant towards change, but it does appear that this is the case for most of us. How does this tendency manifest itself in our lives? One way is the manner in which we consider and deal with problems.

Actually, I think it is useful to avoid using the word “problem” because it sets up and conditions the way we think. The word “problem” acts as a metaphor and leads to negative thinking, feeling and behaviour. Far better to see something as a “challenge” or at worst a “difficulty” since this provides the opportunity to look at an issue from a more positive perspective. Taken a little further, you are at liberty to pries open the doors and create a way of thinking that acts as a catalyst for change, your own magic pill.

It is always sensible to see problems from a new perspective. This in turn opens up a channel to new mental patterns of possibility. If we focus on “problem” we may overlook potential solutions by imposing boundaries around the problem that inhibits the potential of finding a better solution. All that’s left is limited thinking. Think back to the joys of school sitting in the mathematics class and wistfully attempting to make sense of a tricky problem.

I’m sure you were exposed to this kind of experience for long enough. Four divided by two equals two, and don’t even begin to think about any remainder. So, having been regimentally taught that a problem has just one and only one solution, it has caused people to adopt this as a rule, a way of thinking, something that is irrefutable. Trained in this way, we become inflexible thinkers, and apply this belief more broadly to all areas of our lives.

It would be preferable to have a philosophy based on a premise that every problem has at least one or more solutions. To create another possibility it is a simple case of making new neurological connections by thinking outside the box. Many of us fall victim of trying to solve a problem in the same way over and over again, irrespective of the issues involved.
We use the same thinking, same emotion, same behaviour, and mostly get the same result. And you know what? It’s a trap, a complete waste of your rich-set of resources.

Each and every problem has a language of its own, a metaphor that concisely defines it. So, why not consider creating a new metaphor for each difficulty rather than being fixated on a single way of thinking for everything? Try this: consider a challenge you have, and stop for a moment to write it down. Begin to interrogate yourself – in a nice way, of course.

Why is it such a problem? What is unique about this problem? What exactly is the degree of difficulty involved? What is its dimension? Am I thinking predictably about it? Brainstorm the process and see if you can come up with at least three alternatives to the one you would normally take. As you do this, notice the language you use when you describe the problem. Are you limiting yourself by your choice of words?

Perhaps it’s time to stop acting on and accepting there is just a sole solution to a problem and instead allow yourself the freedom to consider several solutions. In particular, begin to pay close attention to the language you internally use. Go ahead and determine whether it is worth creating a new pattern based on flexibility and choice as a means of assessing a problem.

Opening yourself up to more possibilities clearly produces more choice. This allows you to see new ways of solving problems. You will have an opportunity to create a different form of language for each problem. If you do this you will no longer be a prisoner to the limiting beliefs about difficult situations that occur frequently in life. In effect, this means you will have a different metaphor for each unique difficulty. Now you have the opportunity to consider the most appropriate solution for a given problem. You will be far more creative.

Looking at problems in a different way is cathartic; it is uplifting and a personal breakthrough. Let’s face it, the only behavior you can change is your own. The way you behave boils down to the way you think. The way you feel is reflected in your physiology. However, these two aspects of behaviour are the result of the way you think. So, changing your habitual thinking patterns is guaranteed to make an enormous difference to your feelings, behaviour and results. Do this and it will immediately alter your perception of each difficulty. Life will never be the same!

Here’s a suggestion: Begin to think in a completely different way about a problem or difficulty. Make yourself create new patterns of thinking when you are faced with a problem. Go ahead and devise a minimum of three solutions to a given problem. Do this by using your creativity, making new mental connections, and new combinations of patterns of thinking. This will break the old habit and create a new pattern over time. If this is practiced with a degree of diligence the old pattern will be interrupted and a new pattern formed.

All that is required is to see a problem in a completely different away by accessing your creativity. All problems can be reconstituted and restructured to produce a new way of thinking to give you more choice. So, why not be prepared to use your creative juices and derive a better way of dealing with problems? You will no longer feel constrained. Why not go ahead, be bold, and bring a new perspective to your problems?

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