Do You Have 99 Problems? Is Problem Solving One Of Them?

By Crystal Wilson & Emily Bouchard


Full disclosure: This post is being written by two individuals who tend to lean on the “Problem? That’s not a problem” end of the spectrum - Optimists! Enthusiasts!  Keep that negativity over there-ists! 


Nonetheless, we do recognize that problems pop up here, there, and everywhere - and each individual approaches solving them in a different way.  Some are focussed on getting away from the problem as fast as possible, some are focussed on the most stable long term solution, and others freeze and do nothing, creating a bigger, better problem for themselves. 


The thing is, as much as we try, there isn’t really a way to avoid problems (unless you want to channel the Yeti and live far away from everyone in secret). It is in your best interest to figure out a way that works well for you to face problems head on and deal with them efficiently.  


Tornado Rainbow

Image courtsey of Basehunter


One way of doing this is simply changing the way you think about problems. If your tendency is to see a problem as a Tornado, a potentially catastrophic occurrence, you are less likely to run straight at it, than if you think of it as...let’s say a rainbow.  Did you know there might a pot of gold at the end of that thing? You’re gonna want to get to the other side. Rainbow problems will get solved much more quickly than Tornado problems simply because of mindset. This can be easier said than done, so we’ve compiled a list of common Tornado responses to problems, and suggested some Rainbow alternatives.  


Tornado #1: My co-worker/client is creating a problem for me on purpose.

Rainbow Reframe #1: My co-worker/client has a different perspective.  

More than likely the person in question is not just trying to make your life difficult, they just have a different perspective. In order to resolve a problem of communication, sometimes it helps to sit down face-to-face (or the closest you can get!) and walk through the facts together. Really think about 1.) the facts that you know to be true, and 2) the assumptions being made. You’ll likely find you agree on a lot more than you disagree on, and you’ll come to a solution that works for both of you. 


Tornado #2: This problem is unsolvable.

Rainbow Reframe #2: This problem is complex, but there is a solution. Break the problem down into manageable pieces for now. 

Ask yourself what needs to happen to make you feel successful in this moment. What can help you maintain momentum, rather than feeling defeated? Break the task you need to accomplish or the problem, into small pieces. Set small goals, keep up your momentum, and get your problem solved...eventually. 


Tornado #3: I need to fix every element of this problem right away or else it’s not really problem solving. 

Rainbow Reframe #3: Some problems really are big. Huge.  We cannot expect them to be solved by one person or in one particularly compact timeframe.  These problems require you to look honestly at what you really do have the ability to change/solve.  Check out this article for more information on how to do this. 


Tornado Self-Talk #4: This problem is insurmountable. 

Rainbow Reframe #4: This is a challenge. 

A Flow team member, Laura-Lee, has used this trick! And it works for her - give it a try. Instead of using the word “problem”, replace it with “challenge”. It helps to reprogram your mindset. A challenge is something you can learn from and overcome. 


Tornado Self-Talk #5: No one else has faced this problem (/challenge).

Rainbow Reframe #5: I can ask others for help. 

Let’s be real - humans have been around for a long time, and problems have been here the whole time.  There are many resources out there for you to access. These resources might look like your team members, family, friends, working group, and/or even just Google!  Chances are, the problem you’re struggling with is not actually all that unique and someone has some advice out there - you just have to ask for it and be open to receiving it.