I am asked from time to time, “If there is one strategy or advice that you use and would share with others what would it be?”
When I find myself in a negative emotional state I find that my focus is on and remains on the problem. As we’ve addressed over the past few weeks, awareness of my problem is a great first step, but when I am stuck and ruminate on the problem I feel increasingly bad.
When I bridge from problem-focus to solution-focus, I quickly feel better, even before I have decided among my, often imperfect, choices. Try this: take a blank sheet of paper and draw a large letter T on it. Label “Problem” in the left column and “Solution” in the right. First, write on the left side and spend enough time to clearly describe the problem. Then get off it! Move to the solution side and write as many possible solutions you can think of, even if some may be imperfect. Then use my famous S.I.T. acronym. S – Solve what you can. I – Improve what you can. T – Tolerate what you cannot solve or improve.
Here’s an example: Problem is my friend/spouse and I are in a fight. Solve it by addressing the issue with each other and coming to a win/win. Improve it by addressing the issue with each other and coming to an acceptable, but not perfect, improvement. Tolerate it by addressing the issue with each other and coming to an understanding that neither person will change but you both can live with it.
For athletes bridging from problem to solution is critical. Once the athletes understand their problem they must then consider S.I.T. and focus on making adjustments to their performance in real time during a game. All athletic performance suffers when they have a temper tantrum and only focus on the problem. It’s why, for some competitors, trash talking works to degrade an opponent’s performance when they get them angry and get stuck in that emotion.
Have you noticed the difference in friends and family members who are problem focused versus solution focused? Whom do you prefer to be around?
This Solution focused strategy is simple to understand. You don’t need to read a 300 page self-help book, no need to attend week long workshops either. But, it works best with a high level of repetition which then becomes habitual.