Problem Solving Strategies: Solving vs. Eliminating

Bringing back an old blog on strategy, which brings up a great question: When it comes to problems in life, are you trying to solve them by themselves or eliminate underlying causes?

The important issues are usually underneath the surface.

Recently my right shoulder’s been bothering me. It starts aching when I make certain movements. And it’s occurred to me that the way I’ve been dealing with it is symbolic of a mistake we all tend to make.

Nowadays, with the internet and cell phones and the rest of it, we’re all about instant gratification.

So when we have a problem, like my achy shoulder, we try to get rid of that problem as soon as possible – rather than looking at the underlying issue. Rather than really trying to solve the problem.

For instance, I’ve been taking anti-inflammatories, I’ve been running off to get massages…but the shoulder issue keeps coming back.

Instead of trying to eliminate it, I should be looking at what might be causing the issue in the first place. Am I sitting in a bad position at work? Do I need a new pillow? Is it something in my exercise routine?

These are the questions I should be asking, so that instead of just getting rid of the problem, I’m making sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m solving it.

It’s the same in our relationships and in our jobs.

If “issues” keep coming up between you and a coworker, maybe there’s a larger, underlying problem. Maybe these day-to-day squabbles are rooted in some bigger issue between you two. Have you tried to address it? Have you even looked for it?

If you’re 40 years old and you’ve never been married, maybe you can’t say: “I haven’t met the right person yet.” Maybe you have met them, and something in you is the real issue. Have you considered that?

The point is, we tend to be superficial when it comes to our “problem solving.”  We look at the problems themselves too much. We don’t look for their causes enough.

What are some of the recurring problems in your life?

Do you try to solve them by themselves?

Or do you look for the underlying causes?


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