15 Ways to Solve Your Problem


We all have problems. Whether it’s something that’s been dumped on you at work, something at home, or something else entirely, life rarely goes 100% according to plan. No matter how large or challenging the problem, there’s nearly always a solution of some sort. All you have to do is find it. (See also: Got a Problem? Why You SHould Figure It Out Yourself)

1. Speak Positively

It’s easy to think about saying positive things about yourself, but it can be much harder to execute. And yet, thinking positively about yourself will make it more likely that you’ll be able to solve a hard problem. Make a list of things you’re good at or things you like about yourself. Then put them in the present tense, starting with "I am …" You’ll end up with a list of statements like, "I am happy," "I am successful," and "I am creative." Post the list where you can see it, and read through it at least once a day. If you’re comfortable, read it out loud. Hearing your own voice say these things will be even more powerful.

2. Remember Past Successes

When you’re struggling to find a solution, it’s easy to think about all the times you’ve tried and things haven’t gone the way you wanted them to go. Instead, deliberately ponder your successes. No matter how small the success, think it through. Think about what made the success happen, and think about how you can recreate those things in your current situation.

3. Learn From Past Failures

If you can’t get your mind off your past failures, use them instead. Examine each one carefully. Take some time to turn it over and over in your mind. Determine what caused you to fail. Is it something you can improve? In that case, come up with a plan to avoid that this time. Was it something out of your control? Then let it go, knowing that you can’t control everything. Then, turn back to your problem and see if you can’t find a solution now.

4. Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Attractive and Comfortable

It’s so much easier to think creatively when you feel good about yourself. That means not only knowing that you look good, but not having anything to distract you. So, even if those stilettos make your legs look amazing, avoid them if you’ll be in pain all day.

5. Take Some Time Away

If you pursue a solution and it really won’t come, then maybe you’re burning out on this problem. While it’s great to get away for a day or two, a simple walk around the block or even down the hall can help you feel refreshed. Time away from a project also gives you perspective, so you can see things from multiple points of view when you go back.

6. Get Moving

When your brain focuses on one thing for too long, it starts to think in the same patterns over and over. Change your brain’s focus by moving your body. In addition, you’ll charge your system with endorphins, which make you feel good and will also help you think about the problem more creatively.

7. Wonder and Wander

Another way to help your brain get out of a rut is to let it wander for a while. Many times, you’ll find yourself making connections between things that didn’t seem connected before, and you may end up with a creative solution to your problem or at least a new pathway for inquiry. If this is hard for you, create a mind map, so you can see all of the ways that different ideas might connect.

8. Go Outside

If you’re pondering and pondering a problem from the same point of view, get up and move outside. Going outside not only changes your perspective, but it also charges your system with D vitamins. Finally, getting outside may give you enough of a perspective change that you’ll find new patterns for your mind, which may generate new solutions.

9. Watch Other People

If nothing is working, take some time to watch how other people work. If there’s someone in particular who solves problems well, ask them how they do it. While some people are just wired that way, others have taken the time to learn techniques that could benefit you, too.

10. Ask Questions

Asking questions about the problem in front of you not only makes sure you have all the relevant information, but may generate an idea that becomes your solution. Sometimes, other people have a piece of data that they don’t realize pertains to your problem. When you ask them questions, those tidbits can come out and you can utilize them.

11. Make a List

When you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, begin to write down your ideas — the ones you’ve tried, the ones that seem crazy, and the ones that seem like they’d take an act of God to accomplish. Writing can help your brain make new connections and seeing an idea on paper might help you see that it’s not impossible after all.

12. Breathe Deep

Take 5-10 minutes to focus on your breathing. Feel each breath come in and go out. Lay all other thoughts aside. An answer may come to you while you’re breathing or it may not, but no matter what, your mind will be in a better place to come up with a solution when you’re done.

13. Take a Blast From the Past

Even if no one has had your specific problem before, people have probably had similar problems. Do some research to find out how people solved these similar problems in the past. While you may not be able to utilize the exact same solution, just knowing that they solved the problem will help you calm down to find a solution of your own.

14. Think Differently

This has come up throughout this article, but it gets its own point because it’s so important. Do whatever you have to do to get your brain out of the rut that it’s in. Do jumping jacks. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in years. Go someplace new for dinner. All of these things can trigger a new connection in your brain, and it just might be the one you’re looking for.

15. Remember the Alamo

To some people, the Alamo was a huge failure. However, the men there dug deep, dug in, and held on until the very end. While they didn’t get to see the solution to their problem, they inspired people in their own time and across time into the present. Remember that finding a solution to your problem, while important, is only the small picture. In a big picture world, what looks like failure could be more of a success in the long run.

How do you solve those impossible problems? What has worked for you?


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Meg Favreau's picture

Even though I shouldn't be, because I know it works, I'm always surprised by how helpful getting up and moving around can be. When I need to get something done (usually a piece of writing), I often feel like I'm tethered to my computer. But if I get up and, say, do the dishes, that's when I usually have a breakthrough.

Lars Peterson's picture

Possibly apocryphal, but Ernest Hemingway was asked how he writes: "First, clean the bathroom."

Until now I've understood that as a joke about procrastination, but maybe it was advice about finding inspiration. Plus, even if his problem at the typewriter isn't solved by scrubbing the toilet, at least the toilet is clean!

Guest's picture

Sarah, great article and insights into a situation we all find ourselves in at different points in life.

For me, I find the key to addressing any problem, obstacle, or a big goal is action - taking small steps constantly forward towards addressing the issue. The faster I can start making progress on the issue and seeing myself moving forward the better I feel about the problem at hand. I use this for everything from huge life goals to overcoming challenges in my marriage. I just always feel better knowing I'm taking action.

Guest's picture

Sometimes the best way to solve your problem (depending on what it is) is to accept it ie- not having a problem with the problem. Sometimes you can't make a difference so you just need to move on with your life

Guest's picture

Excellent post. I love to read posts like these because there is so much negativity in the world and this cuts right through it. I agree that positive self talk is a major first step in solving a problem because it's important not to get into a negative downwards spiral. Most problems are solvable!

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