Break it down: A simple guide to problem-solving

19 May 2015

Break it down: A simple guide to problem-solving

As a coach, I understand that whether a problem is big or small is a matter of perspective and personal strengths. Emotional intelligence and maturity can go a long way in helping some of us cope better with our problems. That said anyone can take better stock of what’s bothering them if they break it down.

I like to think of the problem as a mountain and breaking it down involves whittling the large mountain into smaller pieces so that you can 1) understand what it’s made of and 2) hence control it better.

Understanding leads to control.

So the next time a problem overwhelms you, here is how you can break it down to understand it and seize control of the problem, instead of the other way round.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. What is bothering me?

2. Why am i worried about it?

Many times, people are unable to identify the cause. This tendency to not name the cause intensifies the problem and renders us powerless. So the first task is to name the problem and determine why it is bothering us.

1. What is bothering me? My partner has stopped communicating with me.

2. Why am i worried about it? I’m afraid this could be a sign of loss of trust?

Once we’ve established the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, we feel more grounded and can think more level-headedly about the problem.

3. Is the problem or situation worth worrying about?

This question addresses priorities. Many times, we may find ourselves worrying about something that, in the larger scheme of things, is not that important.

4. What is the worst that can happen? Can I deal with it?

It’s always good to imagine the worst-case scenario and prepare for it psychologically. This isn’t pessimism; it’s a form of emotional insurance.

5. Is the solution/situation in my control? If no, forget it and stop worrying.

6. Is there anything I can do to prevent the worrisome situation from happening? If yes, take action. If no, prepare yourself to deal with it.

7. What can I do to deal with the consequences of the event if it does happen? Create a plan and be prepared, in case the event actually happens.

8. Have I done everything to deal with the situation? If yes, stop worrying. If no, prepare yourself as per plan.

Questions 1-4 are all reflective. Questions 5-8 are action-oriented. Answering these questions truthfully will lead you to what action you need to take (or not take) in order to reduce your tension.

Once you do this, your chances of understanding and hence controlling your anxiety will be higher.

The fact is that more than 95% of our fears never come true. But, if you are anticipating some issues, breaking the problem down and then being mentally prepared can lessen a lot of worrying.

About the Author:

Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.

Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.




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