The Shortest Distance

Chapter 80 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

WHEN IT COMES TO SOLVING problems, using a formal procedure works better than letting your mind wander, so I have one for you. It involves four steps, and you do them in order. These steps are ancient. You could almost say this is the method to solve a problem. Anything else is less efficient and less effective. When you look them over you may think this is all very obvious and you can easily see why this method will work. But the important thing is using it. When you are confronting a problem, use this method:

1. Clarify the problem. Attempt to write down what the problem is, specifically. Writing it down is better than doing it in your head. Use a lot of paper on this one; it's an important process. Write something down, then try to improve on it. Keep working until you have a clear, simple statement of the problem.

2. List the causes. What has caused this problem? Usually a problem has more than one cause. List them all.

3. Create possible solutions. This is where you can use your imagination. During this stage, first come up with all the ideas you can think of. Then kick back and relax. Use your imagination. Let your mind ponder the problem in its own way, as if you were daydreaming about possible solutions. Look at it from different perspectives. How would an old sea captain look at this problem? How would Gandhi look at this problem? You don't know how those people would actually look at the problem. But you can use your imagination and that will get you out of your habitual point of view. Let your mind wander, but keep bringing it back to the problem. Don't work at it. Do it in a way that is playful and fun. And stop every once in a while and jot down some ideas.

4. Select your favorite solution and try it. You have a collection of possible solutions, and reading through them probably sparked some more ideas. Write them all down. Then look over your ideas and choose what you think is the finest solution among them. Now put it into action.

YOUR SOLUTION won't always work. No big deal if it doesn't - you have others to try. Take this step-by-step approach and you'll gain traction and equilibrium and a feeling of control - something that really helps when you've got a problem to deal with.

Problems are an important part of life, and it's always in your best interest to improve your ability to create good solutions. Mastering this formal procedure will help. It may be the shortest distance between a problem and a satisfying solution.

To solve a problem:
Define the problem, list the causes, think up possible solutions, and pick the best one.

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Taking Credit

next: American Reading Ceremony

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 31). The Shortest Distance, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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