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The Big Stinking Problem…
What’s that smell? Can you smell it? It’s right there… it’s right in front of you. Can you see it? Oh yes, it’s your stinking problem.
Life is of course full of problems. Some problems are relatively small and insignificant that we handle with ease. There are also transitional problems that if ignored for long enough, eventually disappear. But then there are those BIG stinking life problems that we have no idea how to tackle. These are the kinds of problems that just hang around like a bad smell that never goes away.
The problems that life throws your way can be very disruptive. These problems often come at us at the worst possible time and in the worst possible way. And ignoring them just doesn’t work. It just seems as though the universe is out to get us — preventing us from living the life we want. But there’s actually a good reason for this.
Problems are there to help you. They are the stepping stones that will move you forward. With every problem you face you learn something new, something different, something that will help you along your journey towards your goal.
To ignore or skip a problem is like jumping over a stepping stone. You incorrectly assume that this is a shortcut, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. To skip a stone is to forgo the lessons that it has to teach. And it’s precisely these lessons that you need to learn in order to tackle the next problem successfully. In fact, it’s very possible that if you try to skip over a stepping stone that you will slip and fall flat on your face. There are no shortcuts to success. There are no shortcuts to your goal. All the lessons must be learned without question before moving on. But how do we tackle these problems? How do we tackle them successfully?
It’s important to understand that there are no insurmountable problems, there are just ineffective approaches to a problem. It’s like trying to climb a mountain over a vertical cliff face when there is a stairway on the other side that takes you all the way to the summit.
Most people never see the stairway because they are so use to climbing the mountain a certain way. They tackle this mountain the way they’ve always tackled this mountain, whether it worked for them in the past or not. They are literally blinded by their own habitual thoughts about the problem and see no other way up to the summit.
To be more specific, the reason why these people are unable to overcome their problem is because of the habitual questions they continue to ask themselves. In fact, the only thing standing between them and a solution to their problem could very well be one simple questions:
“Is there a better way to climb this mountain?”
Most people never ask this question, and so they never even realize that there is a stairway on the other side waiting for them to climb. They stick to what they know and continue to ask poor and ineffective questions that get them nowhere.
Climbing that cliff face is no doubt an arduous and difficult task. They try and try and yet the mountain of dung beats them every time. And so their problem lingers around and continues to stink up the place. If only they learned to ask better and more effective questions that would help them find a better way to the summit.
A solution to the problem always eludes these people because they continue to think about their problem in exactly the same way they did the last time they tackled it. This just doesn’t work.
The mountain of dung that you are being forced to climb is just one of many stepping stones you must cross along your journey. As you approach each stepping stone it will present you with a different set of challenges. You must approach these challenges with an open and flexible mind. You must dare yourself to ask a different set of questions. Questions that will challenge you to think differently about your problem.
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When confronted with a big stinking problem, ask yourself:
- How have I approached this problem before?
- What worked? What didn’t work so well? Why?
- How haven’t I yet tried tackling this problem?
- What other options could there possibly be?
- How have others tackled this problem? What can I learn from them?
- How else could I potentially think about this problem?
- What am I currently not seeing that could be of value?
- What if I tried…? What then? How about…?
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to ask better questions, however it can make all the difference to the way you tackle your problem.
IQ Matrix Maps
Here are links to complementary IQ Matrix posters that go into more depth about this topic:
- Solving Life’s Problems: Provides you with guidelines on how to solve life’s problems.
- Problem Solving: Breaks down a problem solving process you can use throughout the day.
- Learning from Experience: Explores how to use self-reflection to help solve your problems.
- Six Thinking Hats: Examines the six thinking hat approach to solving life’s problems.
- Strategic Questions: Highlights the value of using strategic questions to solve your problems.