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:
Clarification of the description of the
Analysing the causes of the
Choosing one of the
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
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
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.
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
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
- 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
(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.
To explain the process in a more real &
'tangible' manner, imagine the following example:
Your relationship/marriage has
disintegrated to the point where your partner/wife has left you.
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?
You feel agitated & anxious, angry &
bitter, remorseful & lonely and begin to display the signs & symptoms of clinical depression.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to
the growth & development of the spirit".
©2008 Waldel Pty Ltd