In life, we will encounter problems. Your income, relationships, lifestyle, faith life, job, education, and church can’t stop the inevitable reality that in a world broken by the Fall (Genesis 3), we will each encounter problems.
Fortunately, there are skills and strategies we can strengthen in our lives that will help us to solve those problems. Little or big, the skills are the same.
Skill 1: Communication
Do you really understand the problem and why it exists? How well can you express your thoughts and ideas to other people? Make sure that you are listening well and asking questions. Take time to understand what’s really going on. Think before you speak, and make sure that you express yourself clearly, calmly, and with appropriate emotions.
Skill 2: Brainstorming and Evaluating
Almost any problem in life has multiple available solutions, and you’ll want to understand those options before you make a decision. Brainstorming allows you to create a long list of all possible ideas, before you start to cross items off the list because they just won’t work or you don’t want to do it. Brainstorm first.
Brainstorming is a simple concept: write down all of the ideas (every single one!) that might solve the problem. Get creative. Invite others to help you think. The more ideas on the list, the more likely that you’ll land on a great idea.
Be aware that as soon as you start evaluating the options on the list, you’ll stop adding as many new ideas to the list. That’s why it’s so important to brainstorm well, and wait to identify pros and cons to each idea until after the list is long and worthwhile. Once your list is long, then identify pros and cons for each possible idea. There will be bad ideas that become good ideas once you address their weaknesses. There will be good ideas that are unrealistic once you evaluate them. Stay objective as you evaluate, and think through the impact on you and others, the available tools and resources, and the skills, time, and energy needed to implement each idea.
Skill 3: Planning
Of course, a list of ideas with a big star by your best option is not actually going to solve anything. What you need is an actual plan to address the problem. So, make a decision. Pick the best idea you have, and identify the action steps needed to make it happen. Do you need to revise your daily schedule to allow for an extra 30 minutes of studying, so you don’t fail that upcoming Spanish exam? Revise the schedule and do the study time. Do you need to call your friend Cathy, to get the phone number for your mutual friend Bill who is a mechanic and can fix your flat tire? Call Cathy, write down Bill’s phone number, call Bill, and explain what you need.
These examples are simple, but no matter how big your problem (and solution) is, it won’t be solved with ideas. It will be solved with actions. So, identify your plan for how to make the idea into a reality. Determine the action steps needed, schedule them, do the first take, and then keep on to continue all necessary steps.