Does anyone else cringe when they hear the words “problem solve?” It feels cliché to say that you are a problem solver. On any given day, we as moms can be faced with hundreds of problems to solve. Admittedly, many of our problems are minutiae of everyday life, however, they are still important problems. More importantly our reaction to them will greatly alter the lives of those we love the most. Problem solving is just one of a parent’s greatest assets. This is quite possibly the best version of “monkey see monkey do” in our lives. The methods we use to solve problems will undoubtedly affect how our children solve their own problems. Children who can problem solve tend to have less behavior issues, stronger emotional health and better relationships with others. Problem solving gives us great self confidence and independence. So while it may sound cliché to claim yourself a problem solver, it is no small effort. Problems don’t have to consume all of our energy. With this easy-to-remember mnemonic, S-O-L-V-E-R, you can minimize the energy you spend on your problems and maximize the energy you have to be with your loved ones. Let’s get started!
Become a Problem S-O-L-V-E-R
S - Spot the problem
O - Observe how the problem affects you
L - List possible solutions
V - Vote on the best solutions
E - Evaluate if your solution worked
R - Revisit solutions if needed
Spot the problem
By a long shot, admitting that you have a problem no matter where it lies within your life, can be the most difficult admission. Problems are most often viewed as failures. Failures though are some of the best experiences. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.” Problems teach us grit, compromise, and creativity. Maybe you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck. You don’t seem to have enough cash for a savings account and your debt is rising. Why, you wonder? After all you have a reliable salary. This is a problem that deserves to be solved. It will take time and energy but the reward will be financial security. A worthwhile investment for your long-term happiness. Or perhaps you’re overweight and each season that comes and goes you find yourself in the clothing aisle having to size up your wardrobe, again. While complex, this also is a problem that deserves your time and energy. Continuing this trend could lead to more difficult and expensive medical issues. Your health and happiness is most certainly worth addressing this problem now versus later. Wherever your challenges lie, you are not alone, trust me. I repeat, you are NOT alone. As the saying goes, “awareness is the first step toward change.”
Observe how the problem affects you
Reflection is a powerful tool. Even if it is only 5 minutes, reflect on how your problem evolved. You can go deeper into your problem exploration by asking yourself these questions:
How did the problem start?
Who or what is part of the problem?
What are the possible causes of the problem?
Is it a top priority to resolve this problem at this time?
Do you need additional resources to handle the problem?
What will you accomplish if you fix the problem?
This phase can require more time and patience. For example, for a financial problem, this step can in some cases require several dedicated meetings with all the parties involved. While it may feel like a time suck and maybe even light the fires of frustration, this step is essential because it showcases what doesn’t work. Pro tip: honesty is the best policy when observing and reflecting on past efforts. If you need to write it down to process the past, do it! The more data you gather in this step the better. Now that you’re fully exposed and you’ve determined some background information about your problem, it’s time to start thinking of some solutions.
List possible solutions
The beautiful thing about problem solving is that every problem has multiple solutions. Get yourself a cup of tea and a blank piece of paper and let your creativity flow. Make the brainstorming fun and be open minded. It’s easy to get sucked back into your old ways if you aren’t consciously re-imagining new approaches. Now obviously there are some more preferred solutions than others, but every solution has its perks. You just have to be open minded about it.
This is the perfect time to bring others into the circle. Who else is part of the problem? Who else can contribute to solving the problem. For example if the problem is with your finances, then who else in the family spends money? They too should be included in the brainstorming session. It is empowering to problem solve. Don’t be afraid to hold others accountable or to solicit others to hold you accountable if you need their support. Also, bringing others into the fold creates an environment of support, group critical thinking and additional creativity for everyone. Remember, you’re not on an island in this effort.
Vote on the best solution
Now that you have several solutions to choose from it’s time to pick one. Ideally the solution that offers the greatest benefits is the best choice. In other words, which solution allows you to meet your desired goals. If you struggle with making decisions like I do then you may be inclined to see benefits to all the solutions that you’ve brainstormed. Do yourself a favor and take a birds eye view of your options and see if one naturally rises to the top. That is probably a good place to start. Remember that if the first solution doesn’t work then you can always come back to the drawing board and try something else. Don’t shoot yourself in your own foot by choosing the most difficult upstream solution. Keep it simple friends. This surely isn’t your only problem to solve so you can’t use up all your problem solving energy on this one item.
Evaluate if the solution worked
This is the moment of truth. Did you solve the problem? Did you meet your goals? Did the solution you tried work? Don’t fall for the temptation to classify this as a “W” or an “L” It’s just not that simple. Although it is a tempting next step, it’s certainly not the way to evolve. It’s likely that it will take multiple attempts to actually see changed behavior or positive effects from your changed behavior. As an example, if you are hoping to establish a savings account, it won’t happen in a week. Your budgeting and cost saving efforts probably won't be seen for months and maybe even an entire calendar year. For this reason, again, it is important to solicit help from your circle of trust. New habits are often most successful when we have some peer pressure. For example, if you’ve decided to solve your lack of energy with a daily run you should tell everyone you know that you’ve set out to run each morning before work. If they are expecting to see you running, chances are they might ask why you weren’t out for your jog if you skip a day. Accountability is a helpful tool during the evaluation process.
Revisit the solutions (if needed)
In a perfect world, we would never have to use this step of problem solving. The reality is that problems tend to be multifaceted, which is why there is more than one solution to a problem. Plan A might not work and THAT IS OK! You might not find that waking up early before work to run gives you more energy. If it doesn’t do the trick then you have to revisit your list of solutions and try a different approach. Maybe the solution is more connected to your sleep habits. A better night's rest could give you more energy throughout the day. Revisiting your solutions and changing your approach to the problem is by no measure a failed attempt, but instead a lesson on what didn’t work. Each time we revisit the solutions we can and should celebrate the effort. It’s no small feat to change our habits and solve our problems. Effort definitely counts for something and the fact that you're even trying to make a positive change is something to celebrate.
Kelly Hater, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience along with a B.S. in Health Promotion specialized in Exercise Science.
She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout, providing a clear, decisive plan that leads her clients on a path of success. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming struggles herself. Get the accountability needed to take action. As a mom of two she gets it. Get your E-Book Mom, Open Your Eyes to Self-Awareness.
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