“The problem is not to find the answer but to discover life.” -Terrance McKenna & LK Tommi.
Ah, problems. They seem like a dime a dozen, don’t they? Especially for a teenager, problems seem to be lurking around every corner and come in all shapes and sizes. However, don’t let this frighten you. Problems only seem like they’re the focus because they take so much energy from you. They can narrow your perspective and shatter your self-confidence. But they become smaller and more manageable when you have mastered the skill of effective and productive problem-solving.
Problem-solving is the ability to look at a tricky experience or something complex going on in your life and find a way to organise it and sort it out. Hence the title: the jigsaw of life. Effectively problem-solving is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. It can be frustrating at first, and sometimes you get confused along the way, but once you find the right pieces that fit together, it is pure magic.
When faced with a problem, we get stressed because it can seem like all we see is the problem with no way out. We don’t have a pathway to get to a solution, and we don’t have the right tools to get to that solution.
To make problem-solving a little bit clearer for you, let’s look at a helpful step-by-step problem-solving process. I still sometimes enjoy turning to this process when I get stuck with a tricky problem. It helps to calm the mind and the body and prepare it to think logically about finding a solution.
The Ten Step Problem to Solution Process
It may be helpful to print this out and keep it with you as a checklist whenever you’ve got something tricky going on in your life.
Normalise: Even though you can often feel very lonely in your struggles, or it can feel like the world is against you, remember this: everyone has problems of all kinds, and it’s totally and completely normal that you too have a problem that you need to solve.
Create safety: To think productively about your problem it helps create a safe space. Teenagers especially need a safe zone where they can reflect and discuss their problems with those they trust.
Recognise: Now, it’s time to understand the problem entirely. What is it exactly? Acknowledge its presence. It’s here now and here to stay until a solution is found.
Come to terms: This can be one of the most complex parts of a problem. But it would help if you accepted that the problem is here. There isn’t any point in looking back and wishing you’d done something differently or that this problem never came to stay. Here it is now, and accepting that is a massive part of solving the problem correctly.
Talk: You know when you have a bad dream, and people tell you it’s good to talk about it? That’s true. Pulling the problem out of your head (where it’s just building and building in intensity) and talking about it can be highly beneficial. It can lessen the fear surrounding the problem, and now you have a sounding board to help bounce ideas off. And even if you’re not the one who starts the conversation about the problem, be open to discussing it.
Understand: Get your brain around the problem. What are all the facets of it? Know exactly what it is and why it’s a problem so that your conversations around it are even more productive.
Investigate: It is time to dig in and start brainstorming solutions; this part of the process may have already started in the talking phase. However, it’s also the beginning of the solutions phase, and you’re looking for all kinds of options to solve your problem.
Search for Solutions: Teenagers want to feel independent and that they have something to offer. While talking is an essential part of problem-solving, it is also very empowering to come up with your solutions. But the way you can do that is to get other peoples’ perspectives, look through the problem through other lenses, and then come to a good solution. Begin to ask for other peoples’ perspectives, such as friends, youth leaders, grandparents, and your parents.
Gain perspective: Put your problem into perspective. When you look through your problem from another angle, by asking for others’ perspectives, you might learn that your problem is not as bad as you thought it was. Or, even if it is significant, you will find others who have experienced something similar. That can be very comforting and empowering.
Solve: At last, you can come to a solution that works for you. Then, you can create an effective solution using the skills and information you’ve received throughout the process.
Close the experience loop! Once you’ve solved a problem effectively so that you can move forward, taking what lessons you’ve learned, you’ve closed the experience loop. You can finally move on!
To help teenagers go through this process I have created the ACES (Acceptance, Curiosity, Engaging and Senses) model, which can be found in my new book called The Ultimate Teenage Experience: The Power of Perspective.
The book will be published around August to September. I wished someone had handed me a book in my teenage years; I probably could have used some guidance along the way to help me problem solve. You can now register your interest to be notified of when the book will be released; here is the link:
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