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Problem Solving

'Problem Solving' is not as simple as it seems!

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Problem solving is a fact of life. Our ancestors, our parents, all cultures & societies and all individuals ‘problem solve’ every day. More often than not it occurs instinctively, automatically and unconsciously, yet there are many individuals ‘out there’ that have made an art form of ‘selling the concept’ as being something new and revolutionary.   It isn't; it's just simply not that easy sometimes.

 

Scholars have attempted to break down this innate process to an overly intellectual & formalised cognitive function, thus taking away the unique qualities of a human being in the establishment of a problem and the subsequent methods or strategies employed to ‘solve it’. The concept behind ‘Problem Solving’ involves some very basic & rather obvious techniques & approaches, though strangely enough, there are many that ‘miss the point’ and struggle with its implementation. As a consequence we see the burgeoning prevalence of ‘experts’ & ‘authorities’ on this topic.

 

When one breaks down the process, it appears complex. In essence, it involves the following:

 

 

(1)                  Clarification of the description of the problem. 

 

(2)                  Analysing the causes of the problem. 

 

(3)                  Identifying alternatives. 

 

(4)                  Assessing each alternative. 

 

(5)                  Choosing one of the alternatives. 

 

(6)                  Implementing the strategy. 

 

(7)                  Evaluating the success of the method or alternative strategy employed. 

 

 

 

This is the more traditional way of looking at ‘problem solving’, though there are other methods being adopted such as ‘appreciative enquiry’.

 

No matter what model you choose, if you choose any, the issue at hand is that of a problem that requires identification & recognition, attention and solution.

 

The methodology above may be appropriate or necessary in the world of big business or at a corporate level, though simply knowing the process does not get the job done.

 

For the mind that is disturbed, affected by mental ill-health or insufficiently equipped, this process of problem solving becomes an onerous task beyond the capabilities of the individual at this particular point in time. Assistance is often required.

 

One needs to bear in mind the influences & experiences of our childhood and developing years, incidents and events that have shaped our thinking, beliefs and behaviours and our current mental state. Role modeling of our parental figures and significant others also impacts heavily on how we approach solving our problems and the solutions or remedies we employ. The diagram below indicates these many factors that influence our 'problem solving' ability.

  

 

Problem solving

 

 

What is not noted in the diagram is 'Self Esteem'. This is most probably the greatest impediment to successful 'problem solving', though its' complexity and the need for a more detailed and specific approach requires its own dedicated section. It is recommended that anyone struggling with problem solving in everyday life avail themselves of the information regarding 'Self Esteem'. It may well be that continued difficulties with basic problem solving may indeed be linked to an underlying or predominant low or poor self esteem. As a note; if one were to replace 'capacity to address issues' in the diagram above with 'self esteem', it becomes apparent that factors such as 'developmental processes', 'belief system', 'life experiences' & so on are also intrinsically linked to 'Self Esteem'.



 

 

Before we discuss problem solving for the Rugby League player or those connected with the game, and having attempted to explain the traditional concepts behind the process, let’s look at a variation of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) that can be utilized as an alternative ‘problem solving’ approach. In effect what's suggested here is the combination of basic ‘problem solving’ techniques and CBT that an individual can use without necessarily the aid of a counsellor or facilitator. The blending of the two (2) makes for a more complete method of dealing with a greater variety of situations at differing levels of complexity & severity.

 

 

 

  • Activating Event (A) This means the ‘trigger’ that sets in motion conflict and the need to address the issue and/or solve the problem.  

  

  • Belief System (B)  - This refers to those ‘beliefs’ or ideas that you may have developed over the years regarding the issue at hand or similar issue and/or the manner in which you would normally deal with it. They may have been developed through parental influence, school, religion, culture, peers (your mates) etc… They are generally pretty entrenched, but not necessarily ‘right’ or appropriate.  

    

  • Crisis (C)  - A crisis results from the combination of the triggering event and the difficulty in addressing or coping with it based on your pre-conceived beliefs, opinions, thoughts & ideas relating to this situation. The requirement to solve or address a problem is based on need. If you can ignore a situation or issue or if you can 'sweep it under the carpet’ then you can avoid this process. Unfortunately you can’t continue to do so. Avoidance (or doing nothing) is one of the worst techniques in dealing with matters of concern.  

  

  • Dispute (D) This is the process whereby you ‘challenge’ or ‘dispute’ your pre-conceived, firmly held beliefs or ideas. Sometimes our beliefs & notions regarding something can inhibit our resolution of issues or problems. “Just because I have always thought like this, maybe I might be wrong in this situation; maybe I am feeling this way because of my preconceived ideas”. “I’ll try to look at it differently; try to challenge my thinking and see it from another angle; see the other person’s view; go outside my ‘usual’ methods of dealing with something like this”.  

    

  • Evaluate (E) ‘See how you got on'. At this stage, you look at the outcome of your ‘changed’ attitude/method/technique of confronting the problem. This is where you see if it worked and the degree of success or failure. It will enable you to ‘take on board’ success or re-evaluate how you might ‘do it better’, if success is not forthcoming or not as good as you would have expected or hoped for.  

 

Problem solving technique

 

To explain the process in a more real & 'tangible' manner, imagine the following example:

 

  

(A)              Your relationship/marriage has disintegrated to the point where your partner/wife has left you.

 

(B)              Your ‘Belief System’ says that (1) relationships are meant to last, (2) women do not leave their husbands or partners (3) it is a slur on your character, a failure, a blow to your ego – what will people think?

  

(C)              You feel agitated & anxious, angry & bitter, remorseful & lonely and begin to display the signs & symptoms of clinical depression. 

 

(D)             To challenge your ‘belief system’ you must question (1) whether relationships are meant to last, and even if they are ideally, reality says that it does happen. Almost one in two marriages ends in divorce. (2) women have achieved much in establishing equality within society. They have the capacity for independence if they choose; they work and earn equal money; they vote, they have a say, they compete in the workforce on an equal footing with men…and….they can leave a relationship if they choose. (3) all relationships go through rocky times. Some end in separation or divorce. Life is about learning & growing and all experiences, whether good or bad, will enable this growth. Your stature or sense of purpose, well being or self should not hinge solely upon another individual, even if that person is your wife or partner. Self esteem is exactly that…..SELF ESTEEM. It can take a battering, though it should remain relatively intact.

 

(E)               Once you have challenged your belief system, look at what you have achieved through the utilization of alternative coping strategies. This may not be an instantaneous evaluation and it may take some time before you feel able to assess the effectiveness of your new approach & thinking. At this stage you are more able to learn & grow and use these strategies for any future conflict that may arise. On the other hand, your approach may not solve the problem and in fact, might start another issue or side issue. Continue the problem solving process with the new dilemma, exactly the same way. Commence the cycle again.

 

 

 

If you find the concept of ‘problem solving’ too difficult or confusing, then try to put it into the perspective of  Rugby League. It is no different than playing the game, executing game plans, adjusting game plans & strategy. You do it in every game you play…you just don’t realize it because it has become instinctive.

 

 

You’ve battled for 30 minutes trying to get past the defence, though the ref has been slack policing the 10 metres. You’re making no progress around the ruck area and the fringes are well protected. There’s room outside, though you just can’t seem to get the ball out to the backs to exploit this area. This is the problem you’ve got. 

 

It’s causing frustration & agitation, tempers are beginning to flare. You’ve been given a ‘game plan’ to execute & you’ve trained all week for a particular approach from the opposition, only to find they are not playing as you expected; it doesn’t fit with the present game you’re playing. 

 

Unless you change your strategy, you’re never going to get anywhere. You’re just going to get hammered trying to stick to the pre-planned strategy & maybe gain a few metres in the process. It is time to question the plan. 

 

You may choose to set you attacking line a little deeper, you might try kicks in general play (both short & long – grubbers behind the defence or high balls near the opposition goal line). You may even wait till they tire, though this wouldn’t be an ideal choice. You might have a go at the ref – logical, but not necessarily effective. You may let your frustrations get the better of you and ‘lash out’ at the opposition. Think before you choose this option; it’s easier to win a game with 13 rather than 12. Whatever your choice, you have executed problem solving regarding the situation you and the team find yourselves in. You have successfully executed the (A) (B) (C) (D) of the process. 

 

After you’ve tried something different, you see if it has been effective or not; whether it has worked or is beginning to work. You are (E) evaluating the change in thinking. If it’s worked…..stick with it for the game. If it hasn’t, you go back to the beginning of the process & try something different yet again. One thing is for certain….you never give up. The goal is, as always, to finish the game, give it your very best and ultimately win, if at all possible. Should you not win, you simply try harder, work harder, think differently, learn from your losses & approach each game with renewed vigour. Sometimes you will learn more from a loss than from victory. Victors tend not to examine themselves with the serious scrutiny of the vanquished. 

 

It is an unfortunate cliché trotted out to excuse or explain losing…”.it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”. That’s a lovely sentiment, but totally at odds with human nature & more particularly Rugby League & sport in general. We all go out to win, whether it is in a sport or in life. What is important is that you do not hurt or damage anyone intentionally, outside of the rules, for the purpose of fulfilling your goal of winning. It happens, though it’s rather a hollow victory & a simplistic exercise in problem solving.  



Trying to make the peices fit!

"Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth & development of the spirit".

M Scott Peck

 
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