In this article, you’ll discover How to find simple solutions to complex problems in 8 steps.
Have you ever encounter a problem that has no solution?
If you look at the world through the eyes of a child, you notice that life is always offering at least a solution to any problem. Children have this gift of simplifying things and finding simple solutions to complicated problems. Their solution is rarely the best one, but it is a starting point.
What can be a starting point and how to find simple solutions to complicated problems?
Here you have eight steps to take and find simple solutions to your complex problems:
1. Use reframing
If the problem can be formulated as a question, what is the question? If you find more than one questions, that’s fine because each answer can become a simple solution.
Break down the assumptions and preconceptions you have about the situation or problem. Analyze each assumption and validate or invalidate it.
For example, one of the most common false assumptions that people have is that their problem is unique and unsolvable.
No problem is unique.
If you have it, most likely someone else has it too.
When I say “use reframing” I’m not talking about changing how you name a problem.
Yes, for some people just changing the name, from “problem” to issue or challenge it’s solving almost half of the situation. Yet, not all of us are wired to respond that way. Our responses to problems and life, in general, are based on our personality type. Pessimists, for example, don’t change their mind about an issue just by changing its name.
But guess what? Changing how you formulate the problem from a statement to a question can work for any personality. That happens because the problem does not feel like an end (a dead end), but a new beginning. Have you encountered questions that have no answer? Rarely; is it not?
2. Take a step back
The more you invest emotionally in solving a situation, the harder can feel to address it. Therefore, take a step back from it and look at it from different perspectives.
Taking a step back doesn’t leave you without emotions. They are essential in making good decisions.
Use your emotions to find simple solutions to complicated problems. When you take a step back from the problem, you are reducing the temperature of negative emotions connected to it: anger, fear, frustration, etc.
Imagine this scenario: someone is in your face. What do you do? You take a step back. Why?
- First, to regain your cool,
- Second, analyze the situation,
- And third, to take a decision about how should you respond with a clear mind and well informed.
A problem is no different; it’s in your face…blocking the view. Take a step back, arm yourself with those emotions that can get you out of it, and then move forward.
What emotions can help you find simple solutions to complex problems?
Here you have few examples:
- Love (self-love and the love you have for those who depend on you).
- Pride. Yes, pride is considerate a deadly sin. However, your personal (or professional) pride can get you out of many difficult situations. It makes you act in such a way that you’re honoring your good name and does not allow you to lose your self-respect.
- Curiosity. Get curious about how good you’ll feel (not just for solving your issue, but, also for coming up with that brilliant idea that solves it).
- Anticipation and excitement. Our brain is responding instantly to what you’re doing with your body. When you stand up tall, you feel good. When you sit crouched down, you feel bad. And when you are excited and anticipate good things, you’re rubbing your hands together. This gesture (like a gentle push forward) makes you plan and then start moving towards what you want.
What emotions should you get free from to find simple solutions to complex problems?
Here you have few examples: anger, frustration, fear, anxiety (by the way, rubbing your hands together, alleviates anxiety), self-blame and others self-negatives (forgiving yourself gives you a clean start), shame.
So, take a step back from the problem, arm yourself with positive emotions, and start from a fresh perspective on things.
3. Ask for help
Finding a simple solution to complex problems does not necessarily mean that you have to cook it alone. Yes, the satisfaction is greater if you do, but that momentary satisfaction is not enough reward for suffering a long, long time.
We tend to stew on a problem until we can’t bear it anymore.
Listen, people that love you, love as well to be useful to you. Altruism is a gift for both parties involved.
Let your loved ones know about your situation and give them the opportunity to show off their skills, love, and willingness to support you in hard times.
Communicate through your words what you want them to know. Don’t expect them to notice or get involved just because they love you. People rarely intervene unless you’re asking them because it seems intrusive. Plus, most of us have the presumption that if you don’t ask for help either you don’t need/want it, either you just don’t want to talk about it.
For example, do you know how same spouses are communicating a problem? Showing themselves sad or angry but not voicing what bothers them? And if their partners ask “What is the matter?” they say “Nothing” in an angry voice?
People can’t read your mind; and even if they could (sometimes, read your behavior), they respect your privacy. Ask for help, don’t suffer in silence!
One of the most offending thing for your loved ones is to discover you suffer in silence and don’t ask for their help. Then, you have two problems to solve: your initial issue and the disappointment of your loved ones who might feel you don’t trust them.
Ask for help. Maybe those that care about you, don’t come up with a solution, but at least, offer you compassion, and that helps you temperate self-negative emotions. Plus, sometimes when you hear your problem aloud, you hear some solutions as well. Is it not?
4. Take a break
Most problems don’t start by being complicated. We are making them so when we get fixated on them; when we go around in never ending circles coming back again and again to the same faulty conclusion.
Here you have few of the most common faulty conclusion people draw that complicates their problems: “I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve a solution, I can’t, my problem is impossible to solve, no one loves that’s why no one helps me,
Again, these conclusions (or others from the same family – faulty), can make people end up with more problems than when they started. Each faulty conclusion can become a problem in itself.
Get out of the circle, take a break. Enjoy a moment of peace. Relax your mind and give a hug to your soul.
Clear your thoughts on everything that the problem means to you. Start fresh.
We most often find simple solutions to complex problems from stories.
If a friend gives you advice, you may not receive it too well. Yet, if that friend tells you a story, or read a book on the subject, you get inspired.
Make up different scenarios (involving different people) in solving the situation:
- If your best friend had the same problem what would be your advice?
- What would do in a similar situation a person that you admire and believe to be wise and skillful in problem-solving?
- How can someone, having fewer resources than you have, solve the problem?
There is nothing that can beat the power of example! Role-playing and stories are such examples.
6. Get curious and creative
How did other people solve a similar situation? What did they have more or less than you have?
Brainstorm as many bad ideas (what seem bad ideas), as you can, to solve the problem. Go as wild as you like and let your imagination fly.
Seemingly bad ideas because you might have false preconceived beliefs about what is doable and your abilities which can stop you from looking outside of the box.
Get curious about how far can you get in solving the situation and free yourself from pressure. Overcome the fear of making a wrong plan of action. It doesn’t matter how far you get, just be curious how far and start walking.
7. Put the optimistic side of you to work
Imagine (in details) implementing your plan of action: the steps you take, what is your attitude, what do you say to yourself, how do you feel, how is changing your life for the better solving that issue. Make a mental picture of what will you see, hear and how will you feel at the end of it?
Use positive and encouraging words and see how every piece of the puzzle falls nicely into its place bringing to life the outcome you desire.
8. Open your mind to the obvious solutions
When we think that our problem is complex, we believe as well that it needs a complex solution too. That is not true. Most complex problems have simple solutions. However, because we believe the problem is big, we expect to pay a high price to solve it.
There is a story (I don’t know if is true) about NASA investing a lot of money in researching how to make a pen work in space. That is a big problem to solve, right? Astronauts need to write down some things. After years of research, they discovered that the Russians use crayons…no gravity problems with those!
Regardless if the story is true or not, that shows an example of how complicated problems can be solved with the obvious solutions.
A few months ago I began having problems with my eyes.
It started at the computer: I felt pain, and every time I blinked it felt like rubbing my eyes with sandpaper. Then, it progressed to seeing people’s aura on the street…but it wasn’t just people, buildings and trees and whatever I was looking at had a glowing aura. Funny at the beginning but not so funny when the pavement seemed not to be where it should be.
Of course, I went to a doctor. For the aura problem, she gave me glasses. For the sandpaper problem, she prescribed me eye drops…for few seconds; I felt good. However, the eye drops did nothing for me, so I went back to the doctor explaining to her that I’m at the computer 12 to 16 hours a day. “It doesn’t matter (she said), the eye drops will work” “Eventually (I thought).”
She changed my prescription a few times and then, I changed the doctor, and then another doctor, and another one.
After extensive research over the internet, I found what the problem is (eye drops can’t solve it); so I’ve changed my mind. I opt for the obvious solution: “stop using the computer for that many hours a day, make a schedule, take weekends off.”
Note that you might not always choose the obvious solution to solve complex problems for these three reasons:
- You expect to pay too much to solve your problem.
- Sometimes, the obvious solution requires from you to be more disciplined (as in my case with the eye issue).
- And most times, you might disregard the obvious solution from the start. You’re letting it pass by you unnoticed because “it feels too easy to be true” and don’t give it a second look.
Now, are you having a complicated problem to solve? Following these eight steps, add to them, inspiration from your experiences and stories; then restore your well-being and raise up the level of your happiness. Remember to share your new found knowledge with those who might need it too because, after all, altruism is a gift for both parties involved.