The #1 Obstacle to Effective Problem Solving

Written by on September 15, 2014 in Self Awareness with 8 Comments

Effective Problem SolvingHave you ever considered your problem-solving style? Do you carefully analyze each problem, or do you pride yourself on fast action and doing whatever it takes to make the problem go away?

People who lack trust in their own abilities tend to procrastinate in order to avoid dealing with problems, constantly doubting their instincts, skills, talents, and opinions.

Unfortunately, left unresolved eventually even the smallest unattended problem can escalate into a real crisis.

Again and again, the “impossible” problem is solved once we see that the real issue is a tough decision waiting to be made. ~Dr. Robert Schuller

Problem Solving Almost Always Comes Down to Effective Decision Making

People who learn to handle difficult problems by facing them head-on gain confidence and invaluable skills from every adverse situation. They learn how to handle problems more effectively, and are less likely to feel overwhelmed by unexpected changes in life.

Of course, some decisions will involve one or more unknowns. For some, having too many options can quickly create a sense of overwhelm, which tends to make them freeze. Even when faced with a problem they know they have to deal with, they worry that the alternatives may be worse.

The good news is effective decision-making can be learned, and mastered over time, but it’s helpful to understand some of the more common traps to avoid.

Common Decision-Making Traps to Avoid

Waiting for Certainty

Some people, those with perfectionist tendencies in particular, have difficulty taking action until they have reached a point of certainty about the outcome. If unable to achieve this feeling of certainty, their minds go round and round in circles over analyzing the problem until they end up procrastinating or simply not taking action.

There are few things in life that come with a guarantee, and unless the problem you’re facing is one that is likely to solve itself, keep in mind that not taking action is also a form of decision-making.

Making Knee-Jerk Decisions

Although such decisions are often quickly recognized as a mistake, it’s usually after the damage is done. This type of decision making is frequently associated with money and the need to just do whatever it takes to make the stress go away. Keeping priorities in focus and taking the time to think through the consequences will help you to avoid decisions you’ll regret later.

Waiting for Validation by other People

One of the biggest obstacles to personal growth and becoming an effective problem solver is the constant need for approval by others. This is often a self-esteem issue. The approval (and respect) you really need to find is within yourself. The more decisions you make, the stronger and more confident you will become and the less you will need validation from others.

Failure to Learn from the Past

Some people seem to suffer the same problems over and over. Instead of taking responsibility for the decisions they’ve made and learning from past experiences, they blame bad karma, fate, lack of support from family and friends, or any number of other reasons for their problems.

Again, this is often a self-esteem issue and the only way to effectively move forward is to accept one’s role in the process, identify what hasn’t worked in the past and why, and commit to making better choices in the future.

Beating Yourself Up for Making ‘Wrong’ Choices

There are no guarantees that every decision you make will always result in the perfect solution to your problem. Beating yourself up over making a wrong decision will only end up causing you to second guess future decisions and undermine your self-confidence.

If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. ~Deepak Chopra

No one is perfect. If you knew you were about to make a wrong decision, would you go ahead with it? Of course not, but that should never prevent you from having the confidence to make future decisions.

Mastering decision-making and problem-solving skills is like building muscle; the more you do it, the stronger and more confident you will become.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Lynne

    My decision making style is not what I would like it to be as sometimes I wait for certainty and the opportunity passes. I have learned a lot from your post and will surely keep them in mind when making decisions.

  2. Marty, You have really written some fantastic insights in this article! I do believe that it is so important that you learn how to effectively solve problems by facing them head on and then learning form each situation for the future. As you grow more confident in your decision making abilities you will learn over time to trust in yourself. Thanks for identifying the four common decision making traps to avoid.
    Shelley Alexander recently posted…Top 10 Surprising Uses for Diatomaceous EarthMy Profile

  3. This is an extremely powerful, and totally practical approach to achieving success in anything we undertake. Thanks so much for the thorough presentation of the obstacles we need to overcome, Marquita, in order to reach our goals.
    David Merrill 101 recently posted…Do You Want To Rank Page One On Google?My Profile

  4. Alan Jenkin

    Another excellent post, Marty 🙂 You have hit on the three traps I find myself falling into when making a decision. I find, though, that sometimes it’s easy to overwork the problem; for some decisions, it really doesn’t matter much which action I take, as long as I take action.

    I wish they were all as easy that 🙂

    Alan Jenkin recently posted…Increase Website Traffic and Gain Customers – Part 4My Profile

  5. Mark

    I never realized I had a decision making style!

    Then as I’m reading your post, I had that aha moment!LOL!

    Now I’m thinking, so that’s my decision making style. And that explains quite a bit.

    BTW, I really love your sentence that says learning to master decision making and problem skills is like building muscle. It gets stronger over time.

    And sadly, so does the mental fatigue from always being in fear mode, right!

    Fortunately, you are advising us on how to effectively face and conquer these constant mental battles, instead of always wanting to avoid or put them off!

    And your advice here is extremely helpful! And so is finding the courage and resolve to apply what you’re suggesting! Thank you!
    Mark recently posted…Three Proven Ways To Increase Profits Even During A Nagging Recession!Part TwoMy Profile

  6. Dave

    I concur with certainty that each of your common traps is alive and well (unfortunately). I can also tell you that the most motivating factor for me is when I see these same tendencies in people that you care about. When you realize that they are learning those tendencies from you, it becomes an immediate eye-opener to begin becoming a bit more deliberate and proactive in our decision making process. Very informative, thank you. It is a comforting combination of encouragement and a kick in the behind to get us all moving in the right direction 🙂
    Dave recently posted…RevelationMy Profile

  7. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, You got a giggle out of me with this one HEHE “Keep in mind that not taking action is also a form of decision making” I would never have thought of that HEHE.

    I do think in some way or another we do learn from our mistakes, even if it was from a knee-jerk decision ( I love the way you have with words) I truly did get a lot out of this article today my friend, I am becoming more confident about mastering my decision making and problem solving skills.

    Thanks for sharing.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…9 Must Do’s When Communicating With Your ProspectMy Profile

  8. Sebastian Aiden Daniels

    I still work on these things. I think embracing uncertainty is key. You never know how something will turn out until you try it. I think the biggest one for me is waiting for validation from others. I continually am working on this one. It stopped me from doing many things in the future because of fear. It also caused me to stop doing many things I liked because I would run into a problem when I didn’t have the validation so I would quit. Learning to not need it is so beneficial.

    Thanks for the tips Marquita.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted…7 Thought Provoking Things From The Movie Fight ClubMy Profile

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