Basic Problem-Solving Principles

If we accept that God has called us to be leaders in our environments, then we will want to understand a  couple of basic principles related to problem solving. The activity of problem solving is something people (including you and me) engage in on a daily basis. Yet, we may not be as effective as we’d like to be at this task. Is it possible that our ineffectiveness in this area stems from not accurately defining the problem that needs to be resolved; or not understanding whose job it is to solve particular problems? Let’s contemplate this further.

First, let’s develop a working definition of what constitutes a problem, as well as what could be considered a solution. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus (2002), a problem is “a matter that is perplexing, difficult, or hard to understand or satisfy.” Webster goes on to say that a solution can involve “the act of forming a homogeneous mixture.” There are two key words that we can focus on for our discussion. Those are “perplexed” and “homogeneous”. From these definitions we can apprehend that problems actually exist in our minds. Think about it. If something perplexes me, this activity takes place in my mind. And, it usually has some affect on my emotions. We could further consider that all sorts of seemingly perplexing events happen on a daily basis. However, one event can be a problem to some, and not be seen as problematic to others. Let me share an example.

I happen to be what some would call a “neat freak”.

My husband, on the other hand, is of a different school of thought on this topic. He is not overly concerned about it. Having various stacks of paper in random strategic locations throughout the house is quite normal to him. Our dining room table is often the site of several of these stacks of paper. Now, the fact that my husband has papers spread “ALL” across the dining room table is not, in and of itself, a problem (at least not for my husband). The real issue is that it bothers me. So, by this example we can see that the “problem” is in my mind (not his).

Once we’ve embraced this principle (problems reside in our minds) we can move to the realization of the next principle. “If the problem is in me, there too is the solution.” This is great news because it lets us know that whatever is happening in our heads that is perplexing us can be brought into a state of homogeneity. How? Let’s revisit the stacks of paper on the dining room table.

God gave me the answer. Once I understood that the “problem” was MY problem and as such, I was responsible to seek a solution (one that didn’t include “assaulting” my husband), I was able to listen to God’s guidance without blaming Sherman (my husband). God said, “Joyce, Sherman puts his papers on the dining room table because he doesn’t have anywhere else to do his work.” The lights came on. You see, I have a home office where I store my papers and supplies. And it had never occurred to me that Sherman needed or wanted a work area. Long story short, Sherman & I discussed the idea of creating a work area for him. He got excited and gave me ideas on how he wanted his space set up; showed me how we could fit it in the budget; and we made a plan to secure the items needed. Wow! All of this happened because I understood that the “problem” existed only in my mind. And, there too was the solution (which again, did not include being prematurely judgmental).

God reminded me of Revelations 21:6a (KJV paraphrased) that says God is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Among other things, this means that whatever problems start in my head; must come to an end in my head before I can reach outside of me and formulate effective and lasting solutions.

Finally, I do need to mention that we know events happen that are much more intense and far reaching than my example. However, the principles still hold true. Before we can be successful handling external issues, we have to address the “problems” as they present themselves in our minds. This is where God can do the foundational work that will allow us to hear him clearly to affect positive change in our environments.

I’ll catch up with you in next month’s edition. Leadership Living, Inc.