If you want to do something significant with your life, you are going to have to do some real thinking. The mission you have been given is too important to leave to irrational thoughts, emotion-filled guesswork or hasty judgments. Since you have been given a mission you also have the ability to fulfill that mission but before you do anything, THINK.
Here is a five-step process for problem solving:
Step 1: Define the problem. The clearer you can define the problem you want to solve, the more likely you will find a solution. To define your problem, ask what specific problems must be solved, what questions need answers, what additional information is needed? What principles, concepts and theories am I dealing with? What assumptions have I made – which assumptions are true and which are bogus? Which has more power over my choices, my thoughts or my feelings? Define your problems with as much specificity as you can.
Step 2: Task your brain. Your brain is a marvelous mechanism with a much greater capacity for problem solving than the combined computers ever made by humans. Experts say that, over the course of your lifetime, your brain will retain up to 1 quadrillion pieces of information; so put your brain to work to help you fulfill your mission. Take the problem you defined in step one and say to your brain, “Brain, here is the problem I face and I need an answer to it. Please solve it. I know you can.”
Step 3: Take a break. Sometimes it is advisable to give your brain some problem solving time. Your problem is well defined and your brain is tasked, so go do something else while your brain is at work. Take a walk, take a scenic drive, take a nap, take a week off, heck even take a month off from serious thought on the problem. Give your little gray cells time to solve your great big problem; do not rush them, do not bully them, just keep asking and asking until you get some answers.
Step 4: Think on paper. Experts say that every day you have over 70,000 thoughts. Sorting out the good ones from the bad can take time and energy. When I want to solve a problem I like to make a list of ten. I take a blank sheet of paper and at the top I write the problem I want to solve. Then I make a list of potential solutions with ten possible solutions as my goal. Often a really great idea comes from my list of ten. Thinking on paper gives you extra mental leverage; it helps you clarify relationships between competing thoughts, and slows down the avalanche of ideas that often flood out clear answers and good solutions. When you think on paper it will be easier for you to evaluate potential solutions.
Step 5: Decide. This part of the process may cause you to think even more, so be ready for some hard work. The idea here is that you employ your mind to give balance to your emotions. Be rational, look objectively at your calling, carefully evaluate everything related to your situation, add to and take from your list of ten, and make a rational decision.
More on the process in the next essay – so stay tuned!
- 2.0: Prepare for Action
- 2.2: Pray: Seek wisdom from the source of all wisdom