Step 1. Is this an objective practical problem or a subjective emotional one?
We don’t know how to solve problems when something threatens us because we can either get emotional about it and neglect logic or overly logical and emotionally unavailable depending on our default coping mechanism.
Because of this, we can misdiagnose what is actually happening.
The best solutions in the world are useless if you don’t know what the actual problem is. Find out what the problem is. If you cannot or are sure, get other people’s viewpoints, especially of those not involved in the situation so they are more impartial.
Step 2. Am I qualified to solve it?
Once you know what the nature of the problem is, match the right skills with it. It is very helpful to have an honest assessment of your skills and determine if you have enough knowledge and ability to work through it or if someone else is better equipped to do so.
We all have natural and learned abilities and various levels of expertise. Pretending we are good at everything from does not help anyone. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get better but it’s beneficial to know where you are.
In many cases, we’ll tackle things with a can-do attitude only to lose steam when reality sets in (ask for help). In others, we’ll underestimate our capability to take what we know and figure out the rest as we’re doing it. Know yourself and see if you’re the best person to “hire” for fixing the problem. If yes, get to it! If not, find someone who is.
Step 3. What does the successful result of solving the problem look like?
It’s important to have a clear and measurable goal in mind. If you don’t, how will you know when the problem has been solved?
Step 4. What is the straightest line to get to your goal?
The best solutions are the simplest ones.
You can start where you are with the next easiest and logical step in the right direction to move forward or start making a plan/ guideline working backward from the said desired successful outcome.
Step 5. Am I experiencing growth towards my goal?
That toothpaste commercial said it well: If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing. Either you’re moving toward your goal or away from it.
Implement the steps and adjust. The best laid out plans will change according to feedback from the outside world. The ability to take in and assess what is happening and build the next steps on this information is the most effective way to move forward towards a solution.