Have you ever had a problem or a decision to make that was so complicated or high-stakes that you kept putting it off? Or maybe no matter how long or how hard you tried to figure out what to do, you were just stumped? I’ve got 10 questions that will help you focus and work through it with less stress and more results.
I’ve always relied on a small group of friends to help me work through problems. In 2015, most of those people had new priorities and work around so much. So I had to learn a new way to work through my problems. I still find it useful to have another person to listen and provide feedback, but this method will work with or without a listener.
How to use these questions
- Give yourself a few days to a week to go through the list and keep all of your answers in a file or notebook. Some of the answers will come to you right away. Others may take longer. You don’t want to rush through the process of answering, because the idea is to pause and consider the problem from a new perspective.
- Questions #1, 2, 7, and 8 are mandatory. The rest are there to help you but may not be applicable. Answer the ones you need. Leave the rest for another time.
What is the problem?
Start with a single sentence that summarizes your problem. Try to use the word “because.”
Don’t just write, “I’m frustrated with my job.”
Write,”I’m frustrated with my job because…”
If you’re stuck with your fiction project, you could write something like: “I don’t know where to go next. I’ve written myself into a corner because…”
Get as specific as possible.
Write down all the factors that are contributing to the problem and how they relate to each other.
This will help you identify exactly what is troubling you and give you a basis for finding solutions.
What is your overall goal?
Sometimes when we’re stuck with frustrated, we can lose sight of the bigger picture or the end goal. Remind yourself what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.
State your goal in a single phrase or sentence.
What is worrying you?
Some of the answers to this might be in your answers to the first question. This is an opportunity to get more detailed, to address the fears, frustrations, and doubts you’re struggling with in relation to your project.
What is standing in your way?
What obstacles are you fighting? Internal obstacles like doubt and fear count as well!
What is the worst that could happen?
The worst that could happen is usually a lot less scary once you see it written out.
What is the best that could happen?
And here you have an opportunity to give yourself a positive counterpoint to the worst!
Why do you want this goal?
When we’re in the midst of a problem, it’s easy to lose sight of why we wanted to start a project in the first place. Remind yourself what your goal means to you. What do you stand to gain if you accomplish this thing? What do you stand to lose if you don’t?
What options do you have?
Make a list of any and all options that you have available, even the ones you know you don’t like.
What have you tried?
Write a sentence or two about each thing you’ve tried before.
Spend some time considering and laying out why things haven’t worked for you. This will give you a better sense of what may work.
What else can you try? Or, how can you approach things in a new way? How can you find a fresh angle?
What is your plan?
More often than not, when people say they “don’t know what to do,” what they mean is that they can’t tell if what they really want to do is a good idea, or they have a couple different plans half-formed and can’t decide which one to go with.
If you’ve gotten this far, you should have at least a gut feeling for what you want to do. Write it out.
If you can’t decide:
Play Devil’s Advocate
Explain why each option WON’T work. This is a way to trick your subconscious. If you start out by listing what won’t work, sometimes you hit on what will.
Turn it Around
How can you fix, alter, or tailor the options that won’t work in order to make them work for you? Try combining or alternating different options.
If you still can’t decide:
Map out your choices and the likely outcomes
Pick one and try it for a while (depending on the stakes involved)
Trust your gut. Which do you want to do? Which do you keep coming back to? Your answer is there, 9 times out of 10.