Problem vs. Solution Thinking

Problem vs. Solution Minded People

In Jeff Olsen’s book The Slight Edge I learned a fantastic lesson about successful thinking several years ago.  In fact, this was the first “personal development” book that I ever read, and it changed my life.

The slight edge principle is fairly simple.  At any given moment in time, we are either moving towards, or away from, our goals and purpose in life.  The problem is that we are so often focused on past failures and future problems and stressors that we fail to address the current moment, the current mood we’re in, or the current options we have in front of us.

You see, we always, ALWAYS, have options moving towards the future.  These options might be miniscule; you decide whether to stop at the water fountain and drink, or go on and become a little less dehydrated.  In the gym, you can feel an “off day” and cut the workout off early. 

But these microdecisions, over time, create our life.  If we make little mistake after little mistake, we can end up in a whole lot of trouble down the line.  This is why people sometimes have a “mid-life crisis”.  They realize that they’ve made many little decisions over the years, or decades, and now they realize that those decisions have placed them in their current position.

The beauty of it all is that the opposite rings true as well.  Little “good” decisions add up over time and can create incredible effects over the long term!

Often times, what determines the decision we make is our current mindset.  That is, if we live in perpetual fear and hesitation, then this will be reflected in the decisions that we make. 

But if we feel empowered and driven, we will undoubtedly make better and more goal-oriented decisions.  We’ll skip that cheeseburger and grab the salad.  Or, we’ll go and talk to that girl / guy that we wanted to, but were too shy to.  Entire changes in destiny depend on these decisions!

Unfortunately, it seems like most people are problem-oriented.  They are stressed about all the nuances and frustrations of life, and so their decisions are based off of avoiding the problem.  These decisions will usually be stagnant.  They will usually not make any noticeable progress towards their goals.  Instead they will make excuses, blame other things, anything to take away the personal responsibility.  This is towards our ultimate goal and purpose.  The more you can be aware of your current thoughts and have the ability to stop and analyze the situation objectively, the better you’ll become at making good decisions over the long run.

The keys to success begin with the fundamentals and the “simple” things in life.  Decision to decision, moment to moment, you can bring yourself closer to your goals.

human nature and the way our society is created.

Solution minded people, on the other hand, are acting out of progress oriented thinking.  They say “hey, this could get me one step closer to that (dream job / desired relationship / desired financial status).” 

The decisions are thus made with intention to solve problems aggressively, instead of passive avoidance and passive-aggressive tactics. 

So the next time you have a “micro decision” that may seem inconsequential, listen to that little bell or voice that goes off that says “you know, this would help me get towards my goals”.  This is a skill that can be learned!  It is a “gut instinct”. 

Remember, focusing on problems only brings more problems.  Solution-oriented thinking drives us towards desired outcomes.  While it can be stressful at first, like a muscle it gets better over time.

Benjamin Hetzel