I still remember the day. It was my best friend’s wedding. As you know, weddings in India are like a grand series of events with a long list of costume changes for each event. A lot of events can mean the potential for a lot of problems, forgetting important things being one of them. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. We forgot to get the earrings she was going to wear in her reception. PANIC ALERT! Being the maid of honor I was so worked up. I had no idea what to do. I decided to calm down, take a deep breath, and try to find a way out of this. The wedding venue was also pretty far from her house. At the time I didn’t realize this then but psychology came to my rescue. How? I used the problem-solving cycle.
The Problem Solving Cycle
The problem solving cycle is a 7 step process, that all of us use when faced with a problem unknowingly. Let me walk you through it!
- Identifying the problem: This process involves recognising and acknowledging the existence of a problem. For example, the bride’s earrings aren’t at the wedding venue.
- Defining the problem: Here you clarify and define the problem. You give the problem a structure. It helps you to define your goal and makes it possible to draw up a strategy to reach the goal. Example: I need to get those earrings at this venue.
- Developing a solution strategy: This is a brainstorming session. It involves exploring a solution strategy through different approaches and finding the best one for that particular problem. In my case I was weighing the possibilities of going all the there myself or can someone else go? Or maybe there is someone who is coming from an area near my friend’s place?
- Organise knowledge about the problem: This step involves exploring and analyzing the nature of the problem. You have to decide whether it is a temporary or a long term problem? Does it affect others or just you? Possessing knowledge of the problem helps you analyze the effectiveness of the solution strategy that you are formulating. In my situation the facts were that the earrings have to reach the venue before 8 p.m. its 6.30 now. I have 1.30 hours to get them here.
- Allocating resources for solving the problem: In this step, you find and collect resources that will be required to implement the solution. You have to prioritize the resources according to the priority of the problem at hand. In my situation, I found out that my friend’s brother is coming to the venue from an area near her house, and thankfully he also had keys to her apartment. So I asked him to go to my friend’s and get the earrings.
- Monitor the progress towards the goal: This step involves implementing the solution that has been decided upon. Here you also study the progress of the solution you have applied to solve the problem. If the solution is not making good progress then you can re-evaluate the approach and explore new strategies. For example, I helped him locate the earrings in the house. I was checking on him about traffic, where he has reached, how much time he will take. Basically, I pestered him a lot until he reached the venue. (that’s not the lesson here!)
- Evaluating the solution for accuracy: This is the final step in which you analyze whether you have successfully overcome the problem or not. You take a review and examine how effective the solution was. Or if you achieved the intended goal. If you have then your strategy was successful. Thank fully my friend’s brother reached on time and all was well and the wedding went just fine. Phew.
Usually when we are faced with an adverse situation of any sorts, we panic. At times, we get stuck as well. But if we knowingly and consciously start using this cycle with any problem, the process becomes less overwhelming and more systematic. Try it the next time you face a problem which seems impossible to solve!
Take it easy,
(M.A. Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)
P.S. My friend did not know about the earrings episode until after the wedding!! :-p