Think back to a time that you needed to embrace a change in your life. What were your feelings during that experience? What helped you ease into the new, unchartered situation? How did you comfort yourself to believe that your next steps on your journey would be the right ones? Reaching back to a similar or familiar part of our past can often be the ignition to propel us forward. The lessons we learned and the comfort zones we established are the very tools we can draw upon when faced with uncertainty.
During a training program I presented on problem solving this week, we focused on creative ways to approach resolving organizational and individual roadblocks. After spending a great deal of time defining our problems, we talked about strategies to discover possible solutions. One particular technique seemed to resonate with everyone: thinking about how a current problem is similar to a challenge we may have faced previously.
[Tweet “Ironically, looking backwards can be the best strategy to move forward.”]
One group decided to focus on the problem of moving into a new job within the company. Both scary and exciting, the change brought great anxiety. We’ve all had that happen whether we are making a large move in our positions or taking on new tasks or responsibilities. Then I posed this question to the leaders:
What does this problem seem similar to in our pasts?
Eyes lit up. Smiles came to faces. Wonderful responses began to flow. We all have experienced change so we all have reflective stories to share. The analogy that the group settled on was that moving to a new job was similar to learning how to drive a car for the first time. With a new work position, it will be necessary to master the new skills and the tools like the windshield wiper location, the cruise control button or the high beams. Thinking about how it felt to acquaint ourselves with the responsibilities of driving was like learning the ins and outs of a new work team and new tasks. By drawing on how we gained the knowledge from a familiar challenge, empowers us to tackle new endeavors.
If you have to a problem to solve that seems insurmountable, trying to look at how the obstacle is similar to a past challenge can be helpful. Let your mind roam and think of metaphors that mirror what is presently happening. The familiar lessons can carve out perspective and direction to take.
How do you approach problem solving? Are you a good problem solver? Would love to hear some strategies you have used.