Some people tend to focus on and dwell on a problem, whilst others, having identified a problem, very quickly start to focus on considering solutions.
One way of spotting when people are getting stuck on a problem, is that they make identity statements.
An identity statement tells us something about how a person sees themselves and often contains the words “I am…”
“I am a woman.”
“I am a man.”
People can get into trouble when they start making a behaviour part of their identity.
For example “I am an alcoholic.”
This statement implies that alcoholism is part of who they are, rather than a behaviour that they do- sometimes or often.
If alcoholism is part of who they are, then they are telling themselves that it is permanent and unchangeable.
Clearly this is not helpful, and it is an example of over-focussing on the problem.
The result is that the person doesn’t explore possible solutions.
Saying “Sometimes/often I over-indulge in alcohol consumption.” can help change the way a person thinks about the issue, and what is possible; for example learning to drink moderate amounts, or over-indulging less often.
On the Building Resilience training, we explore other ways to rephrase that statement, to give one a sense of empowerment.
Spotting Problem Focussed Thinking
Consider these statements:
“I’m not a good communicator.”
“I’m not good at relationships.”
“I’m not good at speaking in public.”
The person is:
1. Focussing on the problem
2. Not considering solutions
3. Probably over-looking the times when they have demonstrated abilities in these areas. Doing this results in the problem seeming bigger than it is and more difficult to resolve.
Often they will give reasons why the statement is true, for example:
“My family was dysfunctional, so that is why I am not a good communicator/good at relationships.”
“I’m not good at speaking in public, because I am not a confident person.”
Whilst the above statements may be true to some extent, it is possible that we can still develop our communication skills, relationship skills and our confidence.
For example, when I learned assertive communication, it was eye opening, as that style of communication was very different to the way I had learned to communicate.
It was challenging to put into practice. However with commitment, it got easier.
5 Steps To Becoming Solution Focussed
1. Look Out For The Times When you Are Over-Focussing On The Problem.
2. Remember Times When You Demonstrated Abilities In These Areas
For example, when did you demonstrate good communication skills?
3. Consider Solutions
Brainstorm possible solutions
Consider all the resources that are available. We live in the Information Age.
For example, there are many relationship courses you can access online.
4. Create A Plan Of Action
What practical steps are you going to take?
When are you going to execute the plan?
“I am going to study this course for 2 hours a week, on Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm.”
“I am going to go out twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and put myself in situations where I can practice what I am learning.”
5. Acknowledge Your Successes
Remember to pat yourself on the back for the times that you were solution focussed. This is critical to help us move forward.
Spotting when we are over-focussing on problems and shifting from being solution focussed can give us a self of empowerment and can be energising.
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After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.
He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.