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The best way to solve problems isn’t to focus on them

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

The best way to solve problems isn’t to focus on them

Scott Miker

We all know the feeling.  We have some big problem weighing on us.  Any moment that we aren’t distracted by something else we think about it.

We worry, we stress, and we want so desperately for this problem to go away.  We focus so much on wanting the problem to be gone that we try every trick in the book to relieve the stress on our minds.

Most of us know that worry doesn’t solve problems but we do it anyways.  We start to feel trapped and locked into something that we feel we can’t change. 

But the best way to get through problems isn’t by ignoring them or trying to self-medicate the worry away.  The best way is to admit there is a problem and commit to finding a solution.

I spent many years in my life worrying and it never paid off.  It just left me in a fragile position where I couldn’t handle adversity and overcome.

But when I started to try to put my head down and overpower problems, it didn’t work.  I couldn’t out-work a major problem or try harder to get past an obstacle. 

After years of studying systems thinking this actually makes complete sense.  Many times this new problem that would come up was caused by my actions rather than as a random occurrence that I needed to overcome.  In systems thinking we learn to see the interrelationships and patterns that aren’t apparent to us when using linear thinking. 

By using systems thinking we can start to tackle complex problems that might seem too big or out of our control now. 

There is a concept in systems thinking called feedback.  Feedback represents the effects of cyclical elements of a system.  Compensating feedback is something that presses against us in an attempt to equalize the system. 

But pushing on compensating feedback doesn’t work because the force will get stronger and stronger.  Instead we have to reduce the reason for the balancing force.  Attacking that will give a better chance at success.

Systems thinking presents new ways of thinking that can help us solve problems differently than we do today. 

In It’s Not About the Shark – How To Solve Unsolvable Problems, author David Niven, Ph.D, says, “Problems infect our thinking in many ways-but the basic equation is simple.  If we let problems define who we are, if we let problems serve as our guide, then our problems tell us what we can’t do.  We can’t do this.  We can’t do that.  Our lives become negatives and absences.”

He goes on to say, “A problem, no matter how important, no matter how significant to our well-being, doesn’t belong in the center of our thoughts.”

He says, “A problem is a barrier.  We thrive as thinkers, as doers, as people when we take barriers down.  Think about any great advance in any field of endeavor: a great thing, a great idea, a great product, a great story, a great cure.  That greatness came about because somebody brought down a barrier.  A problem is a barrier.  You have to bring it down, or it will bring you down.”

Using the systems and habits approach to improvement is great because it really helps us focus on ways to improve and solve problems.  It gives us a strategy for seeing problems differently so we can figure out a better way to move forward.  This is how we can consistently start bringing down the barriers in our own lives. 

But too often instead of working on a way to get to a solution, we just keep staring at the problems.  We worry and stress and think about all of the issues around the problem.  Instead we have to learn how to shift our thinking in order to find solutions, which will then take down the barriers and give us experience that will build confidence to find solutions again when we see another problem arise. 

The best way to solve problems isn't to focus on them, it is to focus on solutions.