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How to focus on solutions: 10 tips

Written by Editor

May 22, 2023

By Lynn Vermaak, Chief Imaginations Officer at Aha Training & Development

When did you last think about ‘the way you think’? How has your thinking led you to greater success, performance or not? Are your thoughts mainly positive or negative? Do you get caught up and absorbed in the problem, and then struggle to focus on the solutions?

Our world is made up of many problems. It’s inevitable. Every day as human beings we are faced with various problems. It’s human nature to focus on problems and fall into the trap of negativity. Therefore, one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to train your mind to be a solution-focused mind. Your mind-set impacts everything you do – your relationships, your work, how you approach projects, your success in different areas of your life. Do you have any limiting beliefs that keep you from achieving your goals? Limiting beliefs such as, “I will fail. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t have the resources. I don’t know where to start solving the problem.” So many people fall short of their true potential because their fear holds them back in some way.

We are living in exponential times. The nature of work is changing. Change is a constant. Quick adaptive responses are needed. We need to anticipate the future and develop strategies that minimise the effects of being blindsided by change, especially with the onset of the Fourth and Fifth Industrial Revolution. On top of this COVID-19 has changed everything, and turned our lives upside down – both our personal and work lives. It can feel overwhelming at times, if not most of the time.

To manage this disruption and change, we need to shape the future; and embrace a solutions focused mind-set. It is possibly one of the most effective tools we can pack into our career development toolkit. For an organisation it drives it forward in creating competitive advantage and innovative capability.

Next time you have a problem in your everyday personal and work life, find solutions by trying the following:

  1. Press the PAUSE button

When you are so engulfed in a problem, you don’t think clearly and finding a solution is nearly impossible in that state of mind. Clear your mind from the negative noise with silence for at least 5 minutes. If possible, find a quiet place to pause and reflect for even 10 minutes more.


  1. Choose your reaction

The way you choose to engage with and think about problems, directly influences your ability to solve them effectively. Don’t let emotion get in the way of finding a solution. Regulate your emotions, from irritability of the problem to rather excitement; seeing the problem as a challenge to grow and improve.


  1. Your attitude determines your altitude

Choose and develop an attitude which is more positive and not stuck. This helps you to tackle problems better and find more creative solutions that will move your forward.


  1. Change your perspective

Change your perspective. Think solutions, not problems. Changing your perspective requires looking at the world with different eyes. Not to look at problems as blocks, barriers or inconveniences, but rather as an opportunity for growth or an opportunity to deliver a creative solution. See challenges as opportunities.


  1. Change your language to a solutions-orientated language

Replace the word “problem” with the word “opportunity”. Thus, no ‘problem-talk’, rather ‘solution-talk’. Focus on the strengths, and not the weaknesses. Focus on what is working well.


  1. Leverage your creativity

We must employ creative thinking to break away from the boundaries of traditional thinking and problem-focussed thinking. Albert Einstein once said, “We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking.” Can creative thinking be learnt? Yes – a resounding ‘yes’. Learning to think creatively should be a key part of your career and personal development. It is a must-have skill for the 4th Industrial Revolution. It will give you the edge in your career. It is time to reinvent yourself. It is time to practice deliberate creative thinking as part of your work and life.


  1. Silence your inner critic

When brainstorming ideas, to come up with solutions, often our inner critic judges and evaluates them before we have even said them out aloud. We look for all the reasons why the idea will not work or why it will fail, or why it is impossible. Silence your inner critic and realise that anything is possible. Instead of saying, “It’s not possible, it’s stupid, or it will not work, etc.”, rather say. “Anything is possible”.


  1. Ask open-ended, exploratory questions that invite solutions

 Look at what you take for granted about your problem. Challenge your basic assumptions about the problem. Ask questions such as, “How might I …?” “In what ways might we …?” “How to …?” “What if ….?”


  1. Don’t dwell on the past. Build the future

Know what you want, and what your desired outcome or vision is. Become action-orientated towards creating a preferred future.


  1. Utilise your resources optimally

Look at the resources available to you right now, what can you use? What can you do with what you have? Most times the answer is right in front of you.


  1. Flexibility

Take action until you find the best solution fit for you. This will require you to be flexible when things don’t work out as planned, so that you can go back to the drawing board to panel beat ideas to make workable solutions.


  1. Collaborate

Involve others. Generate ideas together to find the way forward.

Solution-seeking is a deliberate way of thinking. We need to think ‘solutions’ – not problems. The choice remains yours. It takes practice, but believe me, it is worth it.


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