How to solve a problem

I was recently listening to a recording by Earl Nightingale, who said, “the vast majority of people have never sat down and written out on paper, a problem they wish to solve”. It seems people wish to solve it, but that’s not good enough, since they actually never get started solving it. Napoleon Hill said that most people, “make less than one real attempt to solve a problem before quitting!” They decide ahead of time that they can’t do it, and so they are proven right, by their failure to act.

When you want to solve a problem, whether it’s a math problem, or any other kind, start by reading the problem. Next, read the problem a second time a bit slower, so you can focus your mind on the key information given. After that, write down the problem in your own words. Mr. Nightingale tells us, “A problem clearly defined is a problem half-solved”. Focus on making the problem simpler, by including only the important information. You may also need to draw a diagram of the situation.

I believe that most people, when faced with a challenging problem, expect the answer to just pop into their head. They want to guess the answer rather than working it out for themselves. If the problems you are solving are so easy that you can do them in your head, you need more challenging problems! It is possible for you to not know the answer immediately, but for your mind to work it out, given you stick with it long enough. Nature has a way of making sure success is earned, that is, it always comes after a struggle and some setbacks. Sometimes your mind just needs time to sort things out.

So, when you first feel like your problem is impossible, have the discipline to stick with it. Ask yourself, is there some small step I could take that may help? What am I trying to find and have I written this down on paper? You have to know your destination if you are going to end up there! Remember that you won’t receive if you don’t ask, so get in the habit of asking yourself lots of questions. Just be careful not to do it out loud when other people are around!

Next ask yourself, “Am I willing to stick with this problem no matter how many attempts it takes?” I have heard it said that when you believe in yourself, you will be persistent in making many attempts until you succeed. It can also work the other way around, that if you regularly challenge yourself to stick with it through the struggle, you will solve more problems and increase your belief in your ability.

Remember that any long journey must start with a single step. You don’t just end up at the finish line without making all the small steps along the way. Enjoy the process of solving problems, since that is what builds your character and your experience for future problems, when you make up your mind that you will never to give up!

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