Problem Solving Steps

by Sage Reddy

Problem Solving Steps image

Flat tire? No problem!

Chances are you have a life. Which means you have problems. Question is, what are your problem solving steps?

It’s 1pm on a weekday afternoon in Portland, Oregon. Time to throw something together for lunch. I must eat before my stomach eats me alive. I pull away from my computer, head on over to the kitchen, only to find that my favorite burner on the stove (front left) is not available.

Sigh! How frustrating!

I had pulled out the heating element only this morning to get to the pan underneath in order to soak it in soapy water. My favorite stove burner needs cleaning. Again! And whose fault is that?

Mine and mine alone.

My Persistent Lil’ Problem

I make a frequent mess of our stove-top burner at home. Blame it on my love for chai and my late night hot-milk habit. To make either, you have to bring the milky contents to a boil, which, because I’m always busy doing something else, boil over onto the heating element below. I can never get to it in time to save it.

If you don’t clean the burner pan right away, the milk solids burn and start smoking. It gets progressively worse and becomes harder to clean. Did I mention I hate my burner problem? Worse, I hate the fact that I do it again and again and again. I tell myself it’ll never happen again, only to have a repeat performance the very next day.

Why do I let it boil over? Because I always have to do something else while the stuff boils, like attend to my email or make a phone call or write a blog post etc. The list of things to do any given day is endless and there’s never enough time. You know that.

Of course, there is an easy solution to my “milk boiling over” problem. All I have to do is hang by the stove and take it off the burner before it comes to a boil. But who wants to do that?! Watching stuff boil is only a little more interesting than watching paint dry. Besides, a watched pot never boils, don’t you know?

My peculiar problem has persisted for months now, if not years. People tell me I’m smart. If so, why can’t a smart guy solve a simple problem like this? Why does it continue to trump him? Makes you wonder about the guy.

Solution To My Lil’ Problem

I’m determined to solve my stupid problem, come what may. Then one day, this insight flashes across my mind: “The solution to any problem in life is contained in the problem itself.” Huh?! What does it mean? It  means if you really want to solve any life problem you must do the following:

1. Accept the problem. Hey, you have a problem, alright? Quit whining and accept it. Quit complaining about the problem (give your mind something to complain else to complain about for a change). Stop obsessing with the problem (that energy could be better used elsewhere). Stop hating the problem (or hating yourself for being unable to solve it). Stop all this useless expenditure of energy and accept your problem as, at least temporarily, unsolvable.

2. Imagine problem solved. How would it feel if your problem were miraculously solved? Go ahead and feel it. Chronic problems continue to plague us because we refuse to believe that there might actually be a solution. The mind then focuses on the problem instead of the solution. And you get more of what you dwell on: the problem. That’s the Law of Attraction for you. Shifting your focus away from the problem to an imaginary “solution” will be hard if you’re the obsessive-compulsive type, but it’s well worth it.

3. Understand the problem. Don’t try to solve the problem, just try to understand it. Tell yourself, I don’t need to solve this darn problem; I just need to make sense of it. It wouldn’t hurt me to simply understand it, would it? So the pressure’s off. You’re off the hook, mate. Relax, take a deep breath. Be curios, be playful. Don’t try to solve anything, simply figure out why it’s doing what it’s doing.

Time to walk my talk.

As a Life Coach, I bank on energy-psychology to help my clients. Time to use it on myself, right? Only 5 minutes into it, I collapse my emotions surrounding my silly problem. I am able to accept the problem—even if I’ll never be able to solve it. That is precisely when I have my flash of insight: “The solution to any problem is contained in the problem itself.”

Next, it’s time to put the cart before the horse. I dare myself to imagine a life without my silly burner problem. No more messes. No more pulling and cleaning burners. No more wasted time. What a a sweet life! How does it feel? Well, it feels good. I can feel it. I’m grateful for such a life.

Now it’s time to understand my problem. Turns out, the reason my chai milk boils over again and again is because I put it on high heat. Duh! When the milk comes to a boil, I can hiss the hissing sound as it rises in the hot pan from wherever in the room I am. That’s good—because it gets my attention. The high heat, however, makes it boil over too fast. That’s bad—because I can’t get to it in time to save it.

My solution?

Simple. Turn down the burner heat, you fool. Keep it where’s high enough to get it boiling quickly, but low enough so it gives you enough time to catch it before it boils over.

Problem solved!

So there you have it. Got a problem eating your lunch? Here’s Sage’s problem solving 101:

“The solution to any problem is contained in the problem itself.” ~ Srinivas “Sage” Reddy

Because once you really “see” the problem for what it is, you’ve have already solved it.

So here’s your problem-solving takeaway:
  1. Accept your problem.
  2. Imagine it solved.
  3. Be curious and understand it.

Here’s wishing creative solutions to all your life problems.

Image Source: gkko.com

This post was written by...

has written 23 posts on Ask Sage.

Writer, philosopher, Life Coach, author, wisefool, blogger, foodie, musician, tinkerer and husband to a beautiful wife. Founder of Aikya Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to human happiness.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

defense lawyer August 24, 2015 at 9:54 am

Very nice problem solving steps you share.First try to solve your problems, if you can’t then accept them with heart.Very thanx for these useful points sharing.

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Kostas January 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

Identifying exactly what the problem is, is half the solution, simple if you don’t know what causes a problem you are not going to solve it, thanks for sharing these great tips Sage…
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 4:40 am

Well said, Kostas. Thanks!

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Rebecca Reddy January 27, 2012 at 8:38 am

It is certainly amazing what we are capable of once we just except the reality. It allows that energy to go to finding a solution.  Not having our tyrant breathing down our neck really opens our creativity.
~Becca
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 4:39 am

Yes dear, accepting reality is a prerequisite to changing it!

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Lilach Bullock January 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Sage this is such a timely post for me. I’ve recently faced a few “challenges” in business (that are out of my control) so this has really helped me to get more focused.

I think for me also it’s what else is going on in my life when a problem arises. If things are all going wrong then the slightest problem can feel like it’s a huge problem when in reality it probably isn’t.

I can see why you’re a life coach:)
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 4:35 am

Thanks Lilach! As entrepreneurs, problems are a given. When things are going wrong, the slightest hiccup can rattle our nerves. I’ve just learned to cultivate a mindset that takes the pain out of it. :)

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Warren January 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm

So avoiding the problem isn’t an option?
Hmm… Going to have to reevaluate here! LOL
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:54 am

Thanks for your humor here, Warren. Avoiding the problem is a great option… if you don’t mind dealing with an even greater problem down the road. :)

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Warren January 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Yeah, I know. I’m going to deal with it! :)

Cheers Sage, hope you have a great weekend!

Talk to you soon.
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Tosin January 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hi Sage,

This made me chuckle ‘People tell me I’m smart. If so, why can’t a smart guy solve a simple problem like this? Why does it continue to trump him? Makes you wonder about the guy.” Yeah it could happen to smart guys when they take more than they can chew :)

Great tips, man! Taking responsibility is key.

Thanks
Tosin
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:52 am

Thanks Tosin! Good to see you here again. :)

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viviana January 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I love the problem solving steps. What I like is imagine how the problem is solved. Focus on solution instead of the problem. Bingo!
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:51 am

Thank you, Viviana! As someone who practices attraction marketing, I can see why you would appreciate it.

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Dr. George Suarez January 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

Trying to handle more than one thing at a time often lands us in trouble sometimes and if there is no trouble the results are not satisfactory but its an infectious habit and I also try to do it almost all the time. Well written, I enjoyed reading the post.

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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:46 am

Indeed, Dr Suarez. Well said! Multitasking is both addictive and unproductive. Actually, I say multitasking makes us stupid, but that’s for another post. Meanwhile, thank you!

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Jayne Kopp January 26, 2012 at 6:16 am

well, Sage, I’m glad you’re not crying over spilled milk! :-) Sorry I couldn’t resist.

You know I have many little quirks like that. we just have to slow down, laugh at ourselves and look for the right solution. Then stick to it!

Loved the post. I chuckled through it.

Best

Jayne
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:47 am

Happy to make you chuckle, Jayne. :)

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Buddy Hodges January 26, 2012 at 3:52 am

Hi Sage,

You provide a helpful process for dealing with problems.

I can surely relate to the problem in your example. Only in my case it is a daily problem with oatmeal boiling over. I am impatient to wait for it to cook, so I start the oatmeal (usually on high on the front left burner) and go to my computer to check a few emails while I wait. Later I either hear or smell the burning oatmeal.

My solution is to unload the dishwasher from the day before while I wait for the oatmeal to cook. The main point you made , though, is that we must begin by accepting personal responsibility for causing and solving the problem. Complaining about it will not help. It reminds me of when I used to hit my head on an overhead open cupboard door. I cursed the door, but it couldn’t hear. I was the one who could change the situation.
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Sage Reddy January 28, 2012 at 3:47 am

Hello Buddy! Your oatmeal and my milk makes us, well, partners in crime. :) I like your idea of doing something else in the kitchen so you can keep an eye on it (stay close to the action). About hitting your head on the overhead cupboard door, God knows I have cursed many a thing in life. I stopped cursing them when I took responsibility for my conduct. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Buddy. They are right on.

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Stacy January 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Hi Sage,

This is a good way to solve problems because if we don’t accept them there is no way that we’ll be able do anything about them. Using the LOA is a very proactive way to discover a solution. It’s very similar to using afformations, they help your mind to see solutions that wouldn’t have been seen otherwise. I’ve come up with a lot of creative solutions that way.
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Sage Reddy January 26, 2012 at 3:30 am

Thanks Stacy! As a woman entrepreneur who inspires success in others, I know for sure that you’ve solved all kinds of problems/challenges and have come out a winner. So I appreciate your comments here.

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Stacy January 26, 2012 at 3:39 am

Thank you very much! I have enjoyed your blog very much, I’m glad that we’ve connected! :)
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Hezi January 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Great food for thought, I meant chai.. lol. It has been awhile since I had a proper chai, so your post brought back some memories.
I read the whole post and in the middle started to think: What would I do? Did he solved the problem? I was really stressed out!
Loved your solution, very clever, and the methodology that helped you achieve it.
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Sage Reddy January 26, 2012 at 3:27 am

Welcome to my blog, Hezi! And thank you for taking the time to comment and for your good words. I must be a decent story-teller if I had you at the edge of your seat with my silly chai problem. :)
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Paul Reimers January 25, 2012 at 4:16 am

I love chai and have had that problem too with the milk boiling over.
Is there a chai equivalent to the saying “A watched kettle never boils?”

I love hearing about practical ways to solve problems like what you have shared. So many times we can approach problems on auto-pilot and the results can be dicey. I also love energy psychology and agree that the best way to deal with a problem is to clear the root core, even with little things, because they have a way of being attached to bigger things.
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Sage Reddy January 25, 2012 at 6:43 am

Good to see you here, Paul. I don’t know if there’s an Indian equivalent to “a watched pot never boils.” I’ll have to ask around. You’re right, Paul, silly little things in life often come with huge baggage. And a tool like energy-psychology can help us get to and resolve this stuff.

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Lesa January 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Sage, you are absolutely right on here about how to deal with problems. That first step, just accepting that this is what is, is a big deal.

I’m online today after being offline for 6 days, and not by choice. We had a big winter storm hit the Seattle area last week and it knocked out power to about 250,000 homes, including ours.

We live on a dead-end road with 30 other homes. We are often the first to lose power and the last to get it back. All the neighbors here have accepted that this is one of the prices we pay for living here is this beautiful location, full of tall stately evergreens. As a result, everyone was pleasant and helpful throughout the storm. And as a community, we got more done together by accepting this “problem” for what it was and then doing what we could about it than we ever would have by simply being upset.

You have some great advice here for all problems that you might encounter in life, small and big alike. Thanks for sharing.
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Sage Reddy January 25, 2012 at 6:38 am

Hi Lesa! We’ve missed you and have wondered where you were. Now I know! Good to hear from you again! And thanks for your good words.

Wow, that’s quite an ordeal, Lesa. I’m presently on the other side of the planet (India), but friends back home keep giving me weather reports about the pacific northwest. Looks like you folks in the Seattle area really got put to the test, but have come out shining — thanks to the power of a community. Cheers!

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Donna Merrill January 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

What a great analogy to paint the picture of problem solving. Just like your stove top, we look at it, realize we are the only ones who can clean it up, an then have a clear mindset for the rest of the day. Tackling problems head on is the best way to free ourselves. Accepting is first because we have to acknowledge it. Then comes that good old law of attraction of imagining it going away. I like to use the little movies in my mind for this one. Then it brings us to the point of understanding. This can be easier said than done in different cases, but it is applying yourself to this model that makes you overcome the difficulty of the problem itself.
Thank you so much for this blog that answers many questions people might have and giving solutions to the problem.
I’ll be back
Donna
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Sage Reddy January 25, 2012 at 6:27 am

Thank you for kind words, Donna. And for articulating so well your own insights about problem solving. It is great to have you here!

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