Understand the problem before you set out to resolve it

We always speak about identifying the problem and working towards resolving it. But, there is an important step in between both of them and that is ‘Understanding’ the problem. As a matter of fact, understanding the issue is the biggest part of resolving it. I’ve heard many people say, “what can you gain by understanding it, just get rid of the issue”.

By not understanding the predicament, we run many risks. One of them is that our resolution to the issue might be incomplete. We could give the wrong solution that might check the trouble, but not resolve it. We could also end up repeating the mistake that caused the issue in the first place. 

Here is an example of an actual problem that was aggravated because of lack of understanding. An uncle in our neighbourhood developed a cough. Since it was winter, the doctor attributed the case to be simple cold and treated it accordingly. The cough persisted, so the doctor increased the dosage of the cough medicine. The issue was not resolved even then. The uncle changed many doctors over 3 months with no results. He got multiple chest x rays, blood tests, and cultures done to check for an infection. Due to the prolonged cough, he developed redness and soreness of throat along with severe pain in his chest muscles. He was not able to eat anything much and was feeling very weak and miserable.

In the meantime, he went to another doctor to try his luck. As it turns out, he was lucky. This doctor asked for all other symptoms apart from coughing and pains. He also reviewed food habits and considered the past history of my uncle’s health. Once he got a clear picture, he started his treatment. My uncle was cured of his cough. We were ecstatic and we asked the doctor the reason why his medicines worked while all else failed.

It turns out the reason for my uncle’s cough was not in his lungs or throat or any infection. My uncle had an acidity problem and suffered from acid refluxes. His throat was damaged because of the acid reflux and this irritation in his throat led to cough. When the doctor gave him medication to cure his acidity, it removed the root cause and his cough was alleviated. 

This example of acidity causing cough might be a one-off situation. However, it helps to highlight the point that understanding the problem is the best way to resolve it. Try not to rush to solve the problem rather, take time to understand what is transpiring and why it is occurring. Then formulate your plan to save the day.

Problems That Need a Name

A problem that does not exist, needs no solutions, isn’t it so? Unless we recognize the existence of a problem, we will not start thinking about ways to repair it. For this reason, the first step towards problem-solving is to recognize and define the problem. A problem can be anything that endangers your welfare or anything detrimental to your future well-being.

For over a year, I have been suffering from persistent headaches, that sometimes last days at a stretch. Initially, I thought it was sinusitis. Later, the blame was pushed on to stress and bad weather. Whatever the cause, the only solution I could see was painkillers. I had work to do and could not stop to rest. Even when I had the time to rest, I would hesitate to think, “How often will people around me put up with my excuse?”

As time passed, I was able to identify some common features of my problem and finally, the doctor diagnosed my trouble as migraine. Rather than disturbing me, the diagnosis gave me a sense of relief. Since the problem has been identified and named, I no longer feel disconcerted. I can research about the condition and take necessary precautions. I can try different options such as changing my diet, meditation and exercise instead of going straight for the painkillers. This incident got me thinking about the importance of “Identifying the problem”.

We don’t often take the time to introspect about the whys, whats and hows. We find it easier to point fingers at others, the circumstances or our fate. Our deficiencies become our neighbour’s fault or the devious plan of some evil imaginary force. Either, we build up bad vibes for the so-called ‘enemy’ or pray to the heavens for divine intervention. We fail to recognize the fact that unless we work on the problem, it will continue to thrive. That brings us back to our main point; unless we acknowledge the problem we will not work on it.

To acknowledge the problem, analyze every situation and assess your role in the crisis. Think about all the various possibilities like, “What if I had taken a different approach?”, “What if I had prepared for the exam?” or “What if I had alerted the appropriate person?” Is there anything that you could have done that would result in a better outcome? During this process, it is important to be truthful to yourself. This line of thought will lead you in the right direction.

Once the problem is identified, our mind will automatically start looking for solutions. My personal experience has been that I was able to improve myself along many planes. It also helped me become a better person and improve the quality of my life compared to two decades ago.
Tell me about your experience or if you have anything more to add to this topic. I would love to hear from you. Have a nice day!