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Column On Being Positive

Author: Niki Scott
Published: Nov 1 2015

"We all know people who race around in small, futile circles whenever they're presented with a problem to solve, and others who seem to be natural-born problem solvers—able to tackle obstacles, calmly, logically and effectively.

"Fortunately, being a good problem-solver is not a genetic trait. It's a learned skill, one that can be learned at any age. If you want to improve your problem-solving skills, here are 10 steps that will help:

"The three most important things of a good problem solver are attitude, attitude, and attitude. If you think of obstacles as anxiety-producers and unfair burdens, you almost certainly aren't an effective problem solver."

"If you view obstacles as opportunities to gather new information, stretch your imagination, learn new coping mechanisms and achieve more control over your life on the other hand, you're probably a problem-solving whiz."

"Be an optimist. If your general outlook is pessimistic, you're probably not a good problem solver. Facing every puzzle with the assumption that it's probably unsolvable practically insures that it will be."

"Happily, changing from a pessimist to an optimistic frame of mind isn't as difficult was it might sound. Pessimism isn't a genetic trait, either. It's a habit of thought we learned as children—and can unlearn as adults."

"Keep an open mind. Most problems have not just one solution, but many—and sometimes the best ones sound far-fetched or even bizarre at first."

"Be flexible. Force yourself to give up old, outmoded ways of thinking or acting even though they're comfortable. Experiment with new ways of thinking and acting, and you'll be surprised by how quickly THEY become comfortable."

"Believe in yourself—no matter what. If you believe you'll be able to solve a problem, your chances of solving it double. Review your past successes—frequently!"

"Take one step at a time. We all want guarantees that our imagination, diligence and hard work will pay off, but good problem-solvers are able to concentrate on the job at hand and move toward their personal and professional goals without blueprints or guarantees of success."

"Ask for the help you need. There's no shame in needing help—only in being too self-conscious, too self-protective, too proud or stubborn to ask for it.

"Don't ask for help you don't need. Those of us who were taught as children to run to an adult whenever a problem arose, or encouraged in other ways to be helpless and dependent, may find ourselves automatically seeking help now when a problem arises—whether or not we really need it.

"Resist the temptation. Asking for assistance before we've honestly tried to solve a problem robs us of our dignity, self-respect and self-confidence—too high a price to pay. "

"Respect the process—not just it's outcome. Never discount a learning experience just because you didn't get an A+ on the test."

"Regardless of whether you've been completely successful at solving any problem, working on it almost certainly has gained you valuable experience and insight—good tools to bring with you the next time you have problem to solve!"

"Finally, never hold the past over you own head. Learn what you can from your mistakes, give yourself credit for trying, then wipe the slate clean, quickly, and give yourself the same sympathy, understanding and encouragement that you'd gladly give to any friend."

June 21, 1994

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