The 5 Questions To Solve Any Problem

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Have you ever wondered why coaches, mentors or advisors are able to help you solve problems, think through situations, and help you look around the corners even when they don’t know the answers directly for your business? It’s actually quite simple. When we hit a brick wall of a problem, we instantly go into answers and solution mode. 

However, the answer lies in asking a better question!

The Five Questions That Can Help You Think Through and Problem Solve a Situation

  1. What is the outcome I am looking for?
  2. What if I don’t address the problem and choose to just move on?
  3. Can I break the problem down into five decisions to make?
  4. What would I do if there were no constraints of resources (time, money, relationships)?
  5. Who can help me solve this problem?

 

#1: What is the outcome I am looking for?I am always drawn to this quote:

The problem is not the problem. The problem is how you think about the problem.
-Dan Sullivan

I have noticed that when we are in “problem-solving” mode we are looking for the paths to lead us to the answer. We looking for the perfect daisy chain of events and decisions that will get us to some result that will make us feel better. However, being crystal clear on the result… and being able to write the desired outcome in a short sentence will create all kinds of clarity instantly.

Most people are just unwilling to do this… which is cool. That’s why I have 4 more questions to share with you 🙂

 

#2: What if I don’t address the problem and just choose to move on?

Sometimes you don’t need to respond to that email. Sometimes you don’t need to make that business trip. Sometimes you can politely decline the invitation to the party and just send a gift. Sometimes it’s just OK to pay the parking ticket. Sometimes it’s OK to just say “I love you” and go to bed. I am not suggesting to sweep things under the rug, but it is definitely worth the reflection to see if you should just forgive and move on. I use the word “forgive” very philosophically because most people are unable to move on because they have a hook into the problem.

 

#3: Can I break the problem into 5 decisions that I have to make?

With the select CEOs that I mentor, I often take the problem and work to break those down into 5 micro-decisions that will help solve the problem. The reason for this is to de-escalate their emotional state as he or she is often charged and wants to drive home a solution. When we reframe the big problem into smaller decisions, a new sense of calm and understanding fills the space. I have often seen this be the birthplace of new ideas, new innovation, and extreme personal growth.

Note: this is difficult to do on your own and in the moment. But you can definitely do this by deconstructing in a journal / whiteboard without a 3rd party.

 

#4: What would I do if there were no constraints of resources (time, money, relationships etc.)?

The problem with most of us is that we instantly go to the “how”… how do I solve this? We forget that, when we go to “How” mode, our brains automatically make a lot of assumptions both logically and emotionally on constraints.

Let me give you an example:  Many years ago I had an employee to whom I gave the remainder of my car lease to when I was moving to another city and didn’t need the sweet ride anymore. Think 0 to 60 in zoom seconds.

For some reason I found out that he stopped making the lease payments (even though his name was on the transferred lease) and now the dealer/bank sent me a notice since I was the last person to lease/transfer it and threatened with putting a black mark on our credit. It was a crappy situation as right about that time we were trying to buy a new house and it was just another hassle I didn’t need, and I didn’t want my (totally lovestruck and just married) wife to think I was a total idiot.

I could’ve been mad at my former employee. I could’ve tried to argue with the dealer/bank. I could’ve spent time to re-read the contract 37 more times. So I asked myself, what are the constraints I am imposing on myself? Well, it was simple – I assumed that I was fully liable and owed thousands of dollars even though it was not my fault. So, I whipped up my southern charm and called the dealer/bank and was super (ultra super) kind… and explained the situation and asked how they could help me so that we could all walk away from this without any more pain and a long drawn out legal process.

To my surprise, the lady on the phone at the dealer/bank said that if I paid $850 she would make this all go away. I gave her my Amex on the phone as fast as I could and hung up… and went back to being just-married and lovestruck.

 

#5: Who can help me solve this problem?

Give me permission to be your personal Yoda for just one minute.

We have all been trained to solve our own problems but we forget that community drives achievement. Remember, just because you outsource the guidance doesn’t mean you outsource the responsibility. The issue is that most people don’t know how to ask for guidance. Furthermore, most people don’t want to pay to solve a problem.

There is a funny quote:

You can keep your money. And you can also keep your problem.
-Anonymous

While I am not asking you to pay through the nose to solve a problem, I am asking you to ask the question: “Who can help me solve this problem?”

Transformations don’t happen in isolation.

Lean on your friends, family, team, and community to help solve problems as you start to inherit much richer life in the process.

So which one was your favorite?

  1. What is the outcome I am looking for?
  2. What if I don’t address the problem and choose to just move on?
  3. Can I break the problem down into five decisions to make?
  4. What would I do if there were no constraints of resources (time, money, relationships)?
  5. Who can help me solve this problem?

 

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