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How can I define my problem to solve effectively?

The best advice that I have got in my student life to solve mathematical problems is to read the problem correctly and understand it fully. Many of my teachers used to say the answer is in the question itself. So if we focus and understand the question, the problem will solve by itself.

The challenges you are encountering in pursuit of your best self or your goals are like these mathematical problems. You define the problem correctly. There is a high chance then that you will come up with the solution yourself.

Most coaching conversations start with goal definition. Defining the goal/ problem to be addressed brings in clarity.

In the book The Trusted Advisor, the authors talk about two kinds of framing.

  1. Rational framing - the logical part of the problem.

  2. Emotional framing - the emotional part of the problem.

While the rational part of the problem is relatively easier to define (due to the high focus on rationality in our educational system), the emotional part requires deep listening to oneself. The rational frame is about the knowledge, skill, application gap. The emotional frame is more about courage and what cost are you willing to pay to make something happen.

If you were to self coach yourself to define what your problem is here are some tips that may help you.

  1. The 5 Why technique to uncover the rational frame: This technique helps you to uncover the logical root cause of the problem and is a great tool to decipher the rational frame. Once you start with a problem statement ask 5 consecutive "why" till you reach the root cause. Focus on the root cause as the starting point.

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2. Listening & contemplation to uncover emotional frame :

Listening to yourself will involve, finding answers to the below questions

  • Where in my body do I experience the sensation of the problem?

  • What does my head say about it?

  • What does my heart say about it?

  • What does my gut say about it?

  • If I have to broker peace among them, what is the head willing to do? What is the heart willing to do? What is the gut willing to do?

  • If there are no constraints, what will be my perception of the problem?

  • If I was a wise person, what will I say about the problem?

  • What are my emotions around the problem?

  • Why is this so important to me?

  • Is this significant to my life?

  • What is the opportunity/ lesson here?

  • What am I willing to do to address the problem?

  • How confident do I feel about it?

Framing the problem is half job done towards the solution.

What are your favourite techniques for problem definition?

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