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In a Tangle? How to Be the Solution, Not the Problem

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In a Tangle? How to Be the Solution, Not the Problem
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In a Tangle? How to Be the Solution, Not the Problem

Do you have those friends who can’t seem to go anywhere without complaining? They’re aghast by the sauciness of a waitress, the carelessness of a driver, the incompetence of the lady at the salon. And they’re always receiving freebies and coupons on account of the treatment they’ve had to endure.

But let’s be honest. It isn’t hard for any of us to spot problems everywhere we go. Maybe this store is too expensive, that friend always shows up late (and never picks up the tab), this client can’t ever seem to make up his mind, and so projects get delayed.

When we become fixated on all these problems, they swirl into a cyclone of chronic dissatisfaction.

And then we become the real problem.

It’s tempting to wish for an elixir that would make all of these problems vanish into thin air: poof!

But better than fantasizing about something that won’t happen, what if you could actually be a solver of problems, a can-do, let’s-get-this-done kind of a person?

Sometimes, making this switch is all about where you position yourself.

Let’s look at eight ways to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Make a Conscious Shift

1. Make a Conscious Shift

The last time you chatted with a friend, what did the two of you talk about? Chances are, a lot of the conversation was consumed with problems.

Thinking, venting, and obsessing about a problem is pretty easy.

Let’s say you hate your job. From the first moment you wake up in the morning, you’re thinking about how much you dislike the commute, the break room, your boss, your coworkers.

This is to say, when we have a problem, our default state is to accept and gripe about it. The problem is front and center of our mind.

Effecting a solution requires deliberately shifting our energy. It means changing the conversation from: “I hate my job” to “I need a new job.”

Everything that follows from making this shift is hard work. It means updating a resume, networking, and possibly developing new skills.

In sum, being part of the problem is a passive stance. Making an about-face shift to being part of the solution requires a conscious, deliberate effort.

Reframe it

2. Reframe it

Every project has its share of hangups. Sometimes it’s due to something completely out of your control–maybe the plans were never completed, or a client keeps changing her mind.

It’s easy to react to these obstacles with thoughts like: “Can’t they get it together?” and “Why do I get stuck with these incompetent people?”

Although there may be some truth to these statements, an accusatory and victim mindset doesn’t help you or the situation.

Being part of the solution entails taking a different approach.
When you face a problem squarely and work through it, the client notices.

They recognize your ability to cut through red tape, overcome obstacles, and you become their preferred provider.

They’re also sure to boast about you to friends and family.

It’s not Pollyanna optimism to say that a snafu really is a great opportunity. When you are seen as a “solver of problems,” you garner devoted clients and a sterling reputation.

Meet to Solve, Not to Gush

3. Meet to Solve, Not to Gush

Sometimes, when people show up at a meeting, all they have to talk about is “this person who did this, and that person who did that, and this thing that is broken.”

If everyone’s simply airing grievances, however, it’s not really a meeting but more of a venting session.

A meeting is about engaging, listening to various perspectives, then working together to make things happen.

Being a part of the solution during a meeting means not only presenting a problem, but then taking the next step and identifying how to fix it.

“The sink is broken, let’s call the plumber tomorrow and get that fixed.”

When problems are presented in a solution-oriented framework, things start to happen. Organizations reach quarterly goals, collaboration increases, and clients are happy.

Interrogate Yourself

4. Interrogate Yourself

Have you ever lost something at your desk, like a pen or stapler, and your first thought is that a coworker must have taken it? Then after aggravating for an hour or so, you find it hidden beneath a stack of papers.

It’s really hard to acknowledge faults in ourselves and take accountability for things. That’s why when a problem arises, often our first instinct is to look outward and blame someone else.

But let’s be honest–every one of us is still a work-in-process.

In order to be a solver of problems, it’s important to pay close attention to the narrative we tell ourselves.

Making an accurate assessment of an issue means asking: “What role do I play in this problem? How might I have brought it about, and what can I do to fix it?”

Being a part of the solution means accepting responsibility. Once we’ve identified our own role, we’re better prepared to approach others and work constructively to find a solution.

Look Down the Pike

5. Look Down the Pike

When driving, most of us keep our eyes on the car in front of us, and everything in our immediate vicinity.

If we make a practice of looking a mile or so ahead, however, it’s possible to spot obstacles like traffic jams, and make quick detours before they become a problem.

When working on a project, or anything in life really, it’s helpful to think a few steps ahead and consider where things are going.

Take a kitchen remodel. If the owner vacillates over whether to purchase a marble or tile countertop, it could really affect other parts of the project, such as the installation of the refrigerator and stove.

Identifying this obstacle to the client ahead of time allows you to make a detour before you encounter the traffic jam.

You don’t usually get credit for solving a problem that never happened. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set about solving them anyway!

6. Practice Gratitude

Let’s face it, some days are a lot more challenging than others.

Maybe you have a fender bender on the way to work, assuage an angry client during the first hour in the office, then try to run a meeting without any critical spreadsheets, because a coworker forgot to bring them.

After a morning like this, it’s easy to put a “do not disturb” sign on the door, and sulk through the rest of the day.

However, getting completely wrapped up in discontent and overwhelm makes us blind to what is going right. Maybe we’re lucky to have this client, and a team that consistently produces really great work.

Making a practice of being grateful keeps us from getting bogged down in everyday difficulties. Wel have plenty in our lives that is going right–and it’s important we tell this to ourselves, daily.

Change the Perspective

7. Change the Perspective

Some problems are especially tricky to solve, and don’t have a clear solution. In these instances, it’s easy to be complacent and just stay stuck.

Say you have a really hard time getting to sleep. Even after trying all the obvious solutions like turning off the lights and buying a good mattress, you’re still tossing and turning all night long.

Being a problem-solver means not settling after doing the initial groundwork. Some problems require an exploratory mindset.

Improving sleep may require taking an aerial view of the situation. By looking into all sorts of things, such as what you’re eating, how much you exercise and what kind of stresses you face, it’s possible to arrive at a solution.

A determined mindset is its own reward. Although you won’t find solutions right away, a habit of knocking and knocking gets you to the other side.

8. Listen for Feedback

Lots of problems we face nowadays are pretty complex. When we approach them exclusively from our own vantage, it means we have some serious blind spots.

By actively listening to others, and soliciting feedback, we gain greater perspective and clarity on a situation.

Take a simple problem like the office copy machine not working. All on our own, we may assume that it’s just out of ink. However, by asking around the office, we may find that it’s more complicated than that, and a repairman needs to be called.

Being part of the solution means not exclusively listening to the voices in our head. It’s about developing breadth and bringing other people’s input into the solution.

Be the Change

Be the Change

Whether we’re with friends, family, or at work, we choose the role we play. We can be the one who’s requesting help or the one who’s providing it, the one who’s talking or the one who’s listening, the one who presents a problem, or the one who presents a solution.

Whether we’re struggling with sleep, weight, lead generation, or a complicated project, it’s much easier to stay focused on the problem, and a lot harder to focus on the solution.

Although you’ll probably never find the elixir that makes problems go away, being a part of the solution has magical rewards of its own: goals are achieved, people appreciate you, and your social capital increases.

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