The Power of Internal Solutions: Mastering the Art of Problem-Solving

Article Summary

In this compelling exploration of problem-solving, the article unveils the critical distinction between addressing issues from external and internal perspectives. Drawing on real-world analogies and impactful insights from renowned works like the '7 Habits of Highly Effective People,' it delves into the pitfalls of relying solely on external factors for solutions. Through a powerful narrative that emphasizes the importance of introspection and personal accountability, the article asserts that true problem-solving begins with an internal shift in perspective. Touching upon the inherent flaws of the 'Outside-In' approach and the transformative potential of the 'Inside-Out' philosophy, it offers a compelling roadmap for readers to navigate life's challenges with resilience and self-mastery.

We all have problems; problems are woven in the very fabric of our existence. This is quite inevitable and running away from problems only succeeds in making things worse for us and yields no fine results. Therefore, the only solution to our problems is dealing with them head-on. This is the only way we can grow.

No money for bills and groceries

However, some despite facing their problems head-on, still do not seem to solve the problem. The problem keeps on coming back repeatedly. The problem could be managing money, attracting toxic people to themselves, lack of self-discipline, lack of ambition, lack of know-how to approach life, or any other problem. This is not easy because we all want to progress in life and having to deal with one thing repeatedly is nothing but a waste of time. Now, what could be the reason for this gap in effective problem solving? Why are some ineffective at solving their problems?

Imagine a tree. A tree has root system, branches, and leaves, and may other systems, but for now, we just focus on these three systems. Say as a tree farmer, you see your trees have recently started growing yellow leaves. Now, there are two ways to deal with this problem, one is cut all yellow leaves and hope that green leaves will grow again and never turn yellow, two is deeply understanding the problem could be a deficiency of something and whatever is missing needs to be supplemented. Which do you think will fully solve the problem? Cutting off all yellow leaves or understanding what is deficient and supplementing whatever is lacking? The obvious answer to this question is the latter, understanding tree anatomy and nutrition, then taking action to address the problem from the roots up. This can be attributed to poor drainage or improper watering. Water issues — either too much or too little — are the leading reason behind yellow leaves. In overly wet soil, roots can't breathe. They suffocate, shut down and stop delivering the water and nutrients plants need. Underwatering, or drought, has a similar effect.

Now, you would be surprised that not so many people approach their problems this way. This can be attributed to many factors, and we learn from the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that because of how the society works, we place more effort on how we want to be perceived by the society, sometimes even blame the system for our shortcomings instead of looking inwards and fixing the problem from Inside-Out. We spend more time looking for quick fixes, the so-called temporary solutions to long-term problems. Those solutions only succeed in fixing the problems temporarily. The quick fix does not fix the problem permanently, think of those solutions as suspending the effect of the problem for some time, but when the steam is over, the problem is back again. We place more emphasis on personality ethics, how we want to be perceived by others, instead of how we ought to perceive ourselves and deal with the problem from our character ethics outwards. This has indeed proven to be one of the most ineffective ways one can deal with problems, in fact this approach only succeeds in making things worse for us.

The Outside-In Approach to solving problems

Imagine you are having a decent job and can make ends meet comfortably, no questions asked. Due to foreseeable or unforeseeable circumstances, the cost of living rises and suddenly, you need more money to make ends meet. This could be because increasing inflation, increase in the quality of lifestyle, increase in demand from those depending on your or otherwise. Now, this problem, coupled with not managing money very well escalates the problem and you no longer live as comfortably as you used to. Clearly you now have a problem, and the problem is that your income is no longer enough.

How does one solve this problem, say you choose the Outside-In approach. You look at increasing their income through pay raise. Now, you work hard and do the best you possibly can, to earn that pay increase. Now, in doing this, someone still needs to dictate how much raise you deserve, and though you would have earned the leverage of negotiating with them, your boss still needs to decide whether to give you the pay raise you need or not. In some cases, this approach works, and in most cases, one is left on the take-it-or-leave-it boat and must decide whether to keep their job or not. It is almost like gambling. You go into that negotiation room, fingers-crossed that you have your way. As much as this works sometimes, it does not erase the fact you took your own destiny and placed it in someone’s hands. Why not deal with this problem in a manner that you have 100% control over the solution?

Now, as seen above, this could be an answer to the problem, however, it is just a mere quick fix to a pending problem. It will only be a matter of time before we are looking for another pay raise and back to the negotiation table, fingers-crossed your get your way. This because a vicious cycle, one that repeats itself and fixes the problem for a short while.

Quick fix to a pending problem, which is the mug is broken

Now, in broad terms, the Outside-in approach is essentially looking outside for solutions, instead of looking inwards for permanent solutions. The most uncomfortable truth about looking outwards for solutions is that we place our destiny at the hands of things we cannot control. Think of that example of you wanting a pay raise. Now, if your demand is more than the budget your department have for the year, your request will likely not be granted. What can you not control in this instance, the budget the company has set aside for your department and might be forced to take whatever they offer you or look for another job, which is another looking-outside-for-solutions approach to solving your problem. For one to fully master fate and be in full control of their destiny, they need to understand the things they can control and things they cannot control. Placing time on things they cannot control is an exercise in futility, absolutely no guarantees.

Now, when one does not get their way from external sources, they often grow bitter, angry, and some fall into depression. Is this really a way of living? Some resort to blaming others instead of blaming themselves about how their life sucks and hope that will provide some form of relief to their problem, the answer is, definitely not. They blame their boss, the economy, even those that depend on them. That only succeeds in making things worse. Some fall victims to get-rich-quick schemes and get scammed along the way, making this even worse.

Therefore, as discussed, looking for solutions outside instead of from within succeeds in making things worse, often provides quick fixes to pending problems. Yes, that could manage to fix things for now, but the underlying problem is still pending. Clearly, this is not an effective way to solve problems and we waste too much time on things we cannot control.

The Inside-Out Approach to solving Problems

We all have choices in life, we are all given free will and can decide what is best and what is not best for us in any given moment. This is essentially how life works. Our present self is a product of all choices we have made, and for most people, they are a product of the choices they allowed life to make for them. Such ones, allow life to push them around in all directions and comply with whatever that life throws at them. However, it does not erase the fact that they have made that choice to delegate the responsibility of making choices to life.

Some choices lead to problems, and often allowing life to choose for us leads to problems. Why is that? That is because of the way the system is designed. Everyone always wants to get ahead, so it makes sense that everyone has only their best interest at heart, and by outsourcing the responsibility of making choices to life will only succeed in making things worse for us, because life is unfair, and what makes it fair is the fact everyone is trying to get ahead and if we do not stand to claim our position on the front lines, someone will take our spot, and remain desolated.

Now, how can we approach life then, now that it has been unveiled that all this is just an unfair game? We need to keep in mind the words of the great poet, William Ernest Henley (1849–1903),” I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Only we can dictate our future, and it is all in our hand to right all wrongs and unfairness we have endured in the past.

To deal with problems successfully and effectively, we need to stop looking outwards for solutions, rather focus inwards for solutions. Why is this approach best? Because we can control who we are from the inside and can affect whatever change we need to do, to solve the problem at hand. Now, back to the example we stated above, you can see that you have issues with money, and the solution is to increase your income. Now, look inwards, what are you lacking? Are your money spending habits the problem? Is the way you view money the problem? Or you just need to get more income, to accelerate your growth, which is which? To fully solve the problem, we need to fully understand the problem and understand its origins, so that we can apply perfect solution to the pending problem, to avoid it resurfacing again.

Is the problem lack of financial literacy, pick a book and read. The first step towards definite change and success in solving problem is admit to ignorance and seek perfect solution, which places you at the center, and grants you full control over the situation. If it is money problem, do not expect your manager to come and save you. You need to save yourself. Perhaps you need to get a second job, or you need to invest in acquiring skills that will make you more valuable to the marketplace, but still your manager must have a say, or you can investigate ways of generating extra income, by providing value to people. People will always invest money where they see value, this could be the approach, offer something valuable and people will invest in you.

Spend time enriching yourself with knowledge, and understand the root cause

You see how can turning inwards for solutions increase odds of success, instead of having someone dictate your success? We must learn to take control of our destiny and understand we are the captain of our own soul and no one else can change that.

Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking were at when we created them.” This could not be truer. We are where we are at present because of philosophies or paradigms we have, and that could lead to problems. We need to look inwards, what kind of thoughts do we have that lead us to this very problem? Is it because we lack emotional intelligence, or that we lack the missing piece of the puzzle to not have this problem? Whatever it may be, it is something internal, that originates from our paradigm and the sooner we get that checked by looking inwards, the more we will fully solve this problem. We need to stop looking for quick fixes to solve our problems but look at character flaws we may have that led to this problem and fix those flaws instead of looking for quick, temporary solutions. We need to change our thinking process, how we see things. This is the winning formula, and it is in applying this formula that we will successfully solve all our problems, having fully control of the outcome and the steps of getting to the outcome.