Solving Life’s Word Problems

By November 1, 2010Uncategorized

An executive drove from home at an average speed of 30 mph to an airport where a helicopter was waiting. The executive boarded the helicopter and flew to the corporate offices at an average speed of 60 mph. The entire distance was 150 miles; the entire trip took three hours. Find the distance from the airport to the corporate offices.

Do you remember solving word problems like this in school?

If you’re like me, you may have scooched your chair next to a friend and worked together on the word problem. It was usually faster and more fun to work with a partner to solve the problem.

Each day brings new challenges. Some days, the problems we face are bigger and more complex than others. Whether the problem is related to work, family, friends, finances, or health it can be difficult to wrap our head around our problems let alone try to figure out solutions. We can become so engrossed in the complexity of our problems that they become too overwhelming to solve. We can also lose sight of our problem solving skills and the people in our lives who are available to support and help us through challenges.

When you find yourself challenged with a problem, consider doing the following:

  • Treat the issue like a word problem and write it down.
  • Describe the problem in as much detail as possible.
  • Set the problem aside for 5 – 10 minutes and walk away to clear your head.
  • Return to the place where you’ve left the problem.
  • Partner with someone to solve it.
  • Read the problem out loud.
  • Think about it.
  • Talk about it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re framing the problem and considering solutions:

  • What stands out?
  • What assumptions have I made?
  • What is true?
  • What’s most important?
  • What’s possible?

Focus on what you can do in that moment. Solve what you can in that day. Let tomorrow take care of the rest.

Problems become easier to solve when we open ourselves up to partnering with others for support, insight, and encouragement. As a result of sharing the work, we make it possible for our problems to feel lighter and the solutions to feel so much greater.

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