Problem Solving Formula

There is a simple seven step formula for systematic problem solving. By solving problems in an orderly way, you can dramatically increase satisfaction with solutions.

We all encounter bumps in the road that sometimes feel like roadblocks. It is easy to become so overwhelmed that we avoid thinking about our challenges and can’t reach a decision. But it is important to remember that no decision is actually a decision – it’s just one in which to relinquish your power.

When you are faced with a decision or problem – slow down and take a measured, careful approach and use this sequence to arrive at a course of action.

1)         Begin by taking on an optimistic stance.

Approach the problem with the expectation that you will find the right solution for you.

2)         Be aware of your language.

Instead of saying the word “problem” use words like “issue, or “situation.” The word “problem” provides a negative framework, while  “situation” or “issue”  are more a neutral words. “I am addressing a situation” or “I am aware of an issue”  provide a better context than “I have a problem.”

3)         Clearly Define the Situation.

Become a detective – learn to ask the investigative questions – it often helps to write these out.

Exactly What happened?

Exactly What are the consequences?

Exactly When did it begin?

Exactly What is the root cause?

Exactly Who is part of this issue?

Exactly Who can be part of the solution?

Exactly What is the desired outcome?


4)         Explore Solutions.

Write down as many possible solutions as you can generate.


The principle of brainstorming states that the more alternative solutions are generated the more quality ideas will surface. No Judgement. No matter how silly the solutions seem, they are worthy of mention – you can revise later.

Let your imagination go wild – judgement can come later.


5)         Make a Decision – Pick a Course of Action.

You have generated a list of possible solutions in your brainstorming. Now is the time to evaluate the merit and practicality of each of those solutions

Make a clear decision. Usually any decision is better than none and allows you to feel more empowered in your actions when you have a clear goal in mind.

Remember the OMR principle (Outcome, Method, Resources) – It is about sequencing. Decide on the desired outcome first and don’t be constrained by the method, or resources. I presented this idea in a previous post.

With OMR in mind, map the course. If you are a visual person  a simple flow chart is helpful.



6)         Assign clear responsibility.

Create the plan for carrying out the decision and then set a deadline for completion and review. Hold yourself accountable for following through on the path you outlined. It is so easy for us to avoid dealing with pesky or big issues that we often end up allowing inaction to make the decision for us. You have invested the time and the energy in finding solutions to this issue – now follow through.


7)         Monitor the Decision.

Finally, you have arrived at the end of the process. Did you accomplish the outcome you wanted? If you didn’t then you have the brainstorming results to fall back on and you can try a different solution.


Sometimes it is helpful to have a partner alongside to help you think through the process. There are times in which we are stuck in the swamp and don’t  really even know what outcome we want. That is the time when reaching out to someone who may not try to influence  or sway your decision can be helpful.

If you would like to have an accountability coach to help you to keep on track, I would love to be there for you as you make positive life changes towards reaching your goals and finding your solutions


Project111-150x150Dr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’re  been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.