Problem Solving 101

Author: Tammy Taylor, CPT

We’ve all had the feeling of being overwhelmed by a problem that appears too big to solve. Perhaps, your schedule has become more chaotic because you’re short staffed at work, or maybe the pesky habit of night time snacking has crept back in because of a recent break up. Whatever the challenge might be, we all can become paralzed by the journey ahead of us and not sure of what direction to take our next step in.  

Channel your inner explorer

The first part of any expedition is knowing how to properly pack for the trip! In order to become a problem solving expert in your weight loss journey, you should include the following qualities on your checklist:

  • Diligence – There are going to be setbacks along the way! Due to our bodies natural fluctuations the scale may go up by one or two pounds- even when we’ve done our best to stay within our calorie budgets! As frustrating as that is, maintaining confidence that if you stick with the plan, you WILL reach your destination is key to keeping motivation. 
  • Creativity –  Creating true behavior and lifestyle changes can be a rather bumpy trip. And in order to keep yourself from falling off the wagon, you may have to get creative and think outside of the box! Put sticky notes on the fridge with helpful mantras, fill up on veggies before you head out to a social event, get up from your desk and so some squats. Whatever keeps YOUR wagon moving in the right direction, continue to do it without worrying about the status quo.
  • Adaptability –  Stay flexible with your route and make necessary adjustments when needed. If your original plan was to go to the gym after work 3 days a week, but you end up having to stay late; avoid all or nothing thinking by adapting your goal to a 10 minute workout at home.
  • Open mindedness – Accepting that you may not have all the answers and need support along the way is okay! Be willing to reach out to your group or coach for possible solutions that you may not have considered. 

Identify your problem solving style

There are three types of problem solvers.

The impulsive problem solver: Sometimes it can be tempting to impulsively jump at the first idea that pops into our heads without thinking it thru. For instance; you may know that you have a problem overeating when going out with friends on the weekends. The first solution that pops into your head, is to limit your social activities, but what you soon discover is that by limiting your activities you now feel secluded and lonely, so you begin to eat emotionally while being at home. If you don’t take time to sit still, set up camp and remain patient, you may find yourself getting deeper and deeper lost in the wilderness. 

The avoidant problem solver: If you tend to avoid action when faced with a problem, you may decide to stay in your campsite a bit too long and risk never reaching a better destination. Facing the long road ahead of us can be daunting. Perhaps, you haven’t wanted to step on a scale in order to stay in denial over the state of your health. By avoiding our problems, we’re also avoiding the road to the solutions and the wonderful feelings of joy and success. 

T The rational problem solver: Rational problem solvers will take time to pack and prepare themselves for the journey ahead. These problem solving explorers tend to use a 4 step problem solving method to ensure they reach their destination.

Solve any problem with these 4 steps

  1. Define the problem or obstacles: When defining a problem be as specific as possible. The problem may start out as “I overeat when I get home from work.” Continue to narrow that down. “I overeat when I get home from work because I get too busy and forget to eat all day.” Now we have a specific problem!
  2. Come up with a variety of solutions: Generate as many solutions as you can! Look at this like your brainstorming session. No solution is too silly or ridiculous. For instance, some possible solutions you might come up with for not eating enough through your day could be; To pack your lunches, or raid the staff fridge to see what your co-worker packed! (HA!) or maybe set a timer to remind yourself to take a break.
  3. Pick the best option and take action: The next step is to take action! Pick the solution you think would work well for you and give it your all. Remember, this is not about perfection- it may take some trial and error. You’ve already packed your bag with the right supplies, now you’re prepared for anything! 
  4. Assess progress and re-evaluate: Lastly, evaluate your progress and rate how your solution worked. Perhaps, packing lunches helped, but you still forgot to eat what you packed 3 out of your 5 day work week. If you find that the original route you mapped out did not take you the whole way, don’t panic! Simply take a few moments to revisit your decision making process.  For example; since packing lunches helped 3 out of 5 days, perhaps if you also set a timer it will help you to remember to take a break!