I had a breakthrough this weekend on a problem that I have been wrestling with for a long time. The my epiphany came from the words of Bernie Roth. I had first heard Bernie Roth speak at a Entrepreneur Thought Leader lecture by podcast from Stanford. This weekend I was listening to The Achievement Habit, the book that Bernie Roth had written, and had been talking about in the podcast. Bernie talks about the fact that the problem you are trying to solve isn’t always the problem that you really have. Then Bernie repeated the one question that had struck me last time I heard him speak. As I mulled over my problem once again with this question in mind, a shock ran through my body as I realized that the last time I answered the question I hadn’t gone deep enough. Today I had a much truer answer to the question: “What would it do for you if you solved this problem?”
Too often we get caught in looking for the solution to a problem as soon as we encounter the problem. It’s an easy trap to fall into. If something is causing you pain, you want to remove the pain as soon as possible. So we latch on to the first relief that we can find. This is usually the first answer to the problem that we can think of. If you stop and ask yourself, “What would it do for me if I solved this problem?” You will come up with the outcome that you are looking for. Sometimes you can easily get to this outcome without solving the problem that you thought you had.
For example, if your problem is: “My family schedule is much to hectic. How do I make our schedule less crazy?” and you ask yourself the question: “What would it do for me if I solved this problem?” You might actually find that the answer to this question is: “I would have more time to be able to exercise.” You might ask yourself the question a second time, “What would it do if I solved this problem?” If I exercised more I would be more fit, and have more energy for the rest of my life. So now the problem might be that you don’t have time to get fit or be healthy because of a hectic family life. So then you can start to ask the question: “How can I get fit while my family is doing their activities?” And you will find that you can go for a run while one of your kids is on dance on Friday. And because there is a 2 1/2 hour activity on Thursday you can go to the gym after you drop the kids off. And on Saturday while one kid is at horse riding you can volunteer to clean pens, which is exercise in itself. And suddenly your family continues to do all of the activities that they need to do, and you are getting fit during every activity that your kids have. All this because you reframed the question from, “How do I stop the hectic family schedule?” to the real question of “How do I keep fit and having lots of energy?”
The next time you have a problem that you can solve, try reframing the question. Don’t just try to solve the problem, but stop and think and think about the outcome. Take some time to ask yourself repeatedly:
What would it do for me if I solved this problem?
Once you have the answer to this question, you will have a clear path to understand your real problem, and what the solution is.