Why worry about the problem? Solve it

Most adults report being under increasing levels of stress.

Worrying man (Illustrative) (photo credit: TIM LEE/TNS)
Worrying man (Illustrative)
(photo credit: TIM LEE/TNS)
Feeling stressed? You are not alone. Most adults report being under increasing levels of stress. Modern life is filled with change, uncertainty, complicated relationships, urgent deadlines and long workdays. Developing your problem- solving skills can help make life’s challenges more manageable.
I remember some time ago sitting in a conference room with Ori, the CEO of a very reputable hi-tech company. Ori and I were looking for investors to help cover the development costs of a children’s computer drug prevention program that I was developing.
It was five minutes before our scheduled meeting with a prospective investor was about to begin, and as Ori readied his laptop to show the protocol for this project, he was unable to connect his mouse to his computer. We both looked up at the clock on the wall and realized that we were about to blow a great opportunity because of a hardware problem.
I became concerned, admittedly worried that my entrepreneur dream was about to disappear. Ori did not blink an eye, as he studied the problem, figured out what was wrong and then tried to figure out a solution.
Very quickly, Ori showed me what the problem was; one of the pins that was essential for the mouse to connect to the laptop was missing. He searched in his briefcase for a paper clip, broke off a piece of the clip just big enough to insert in the hole where the pin was missing, and connected the mouse. Giving me a reassuring smile, he booted up his laptop just as the potential investor entered the room.
What really amazed me was how Ori did not waste any time worrying about the problem; instead, he immediately proceeded to find a solution to fix it.
What can we learn from Ori’s approach to this problem?
For starters, he did not let anxiety become a factor. His approach to the problem was to find a solution. In fact, he used one of the central tenets that cognitive- behavioral therapists teach their clients – the skills of problem-solving.
PROBLEM-SOLVING therapy is a cognitive-behavioral intervention to help people improve their ability to cope with the stressful experiences of life.
The underlying assumption of this approach is that many emotional symptoms occur because the individual is faced with an emotional challenge that exceeds his/her ability to solve it. Every day of our lives, we face problems that we have to cope with and solve. Sometimes, problems can be overwhelming and leave us feeling anxious or depressed.
Learning effective problem-solving skills can enhance our coping with many of the challenges we face.
The psychology literature identifies five components that are part of effective problem-solving.
1. Identify the problem
It is important to understand a problem before you try to solve it. Take time to analyze the problem. What is happening? Is there any part of the problem over which you have control? You cannot change everything, so it is best to focus on issues you can realistically change.
2. Brainstorm ideas
After you have a well-defined problem, it is time to think about solutions. Think of all the ways in which you might solve your problem. The rule when brainstorming is to consult friends, work colleagues, family members; do a Google search. The sky is the limit in this stage.
3. Select a solution
Of all your creative ideas – silly or serious – which has the most potential? At this stage, you have to decide which solution to try.
Did you think through both the positive and negative consequences? Sometimes, you need to calculate cost-effectiveness.
When selecting a solution, it is imperative to think ahead of alternatives, in case your solution does not work.
4. Put your plan into action
Once you have chosen a plan of action, be completely committed to it. Believe in yourself and go for it. Ori definitely believed in himself and put his plan into action.
5. Evaluate your experience
Did your solution work? When evaluating your choice, it is important to think through what you would do differently next time.
Problem-solving is a natural human talent. We are born solving problems from our first attempts as babies to grasp and crawl.
We may not count the thousands of choices we make each day as problem-solving, but that is what they are.
So when you focus on solving more complicated problems, have the confidence of knowing that you have plenty of experience behind you. However, when in doubt, try to follow the steps described above.
The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana. www.facebook.com/drmikegropper; drmikegropper@gmail.com