Problem solving strategies

Blog Post No. 43

17th February 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Magic models – how to get back your energy quickly after you’ve had a setback!

Coping with setbacks
skilled-helperThere are lots of things that we have available in our popular culture to lift our mood after we’ve had a setback or hit a major problem which is stressing us. We’re often advised to do retail therapy, eat chocolate, get down the local for a drink, book a holiday, buy a DVD, get our hair done, go and watch the latest film, eat exotic take-out food, and so on. The list is endless. Generally, we try to do something which will take our mind off problems and distract ourselves. But does this approach work?

Actually, these popular solutions have a few drawbacks:

  1. They cost money (what if we have none spare, and are struggling to survive?)
  2. They may have a physical cost for us (a hangover, or weight gain, for examples).
  3. They are short-term palliatives, but they do not work in the long run. (They produce short-term pleasure, but they leave us open to longer-term pain!)

Basically, their effect doesn’t last very long – it quickly wears off. Have you noticed how soon we can forget a brilliant party that we went to, or how rapidly we get used to that new outfit we bought?

When I am fed up, or feeling low, I personally like to use techniques that I can use anywhere, work quickly, don’t cost anything financially, are easily understood, and quickly bring me back to that state of happiness and deep appreciation of the marvel of life and of human beings that I usually have!

Here’s­­­ an example of a way of ‘re-framing’ your problems, which can be really helpful at times.

smoky-robinsonThis was said by Smokey Robinson’s mother:

“From the day that you’re born, till you ride in the hearse, there’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse!”

Good, isn’t it? Perfect if you’re stuck in traffic and you’re trying to get home for your tea after you’ve been grafting away at work all day, and there’s no way out of the situation. But the situation could always be so much worse than it is.

My approach

In this blog, I want to share with you two great models I use when I have a problem or setback and I’ll explain to you how they work and hopefully you’ll find them of value to you in your own life.

Actually, to be completely honest, they don’t cost anything financially, but there is a price. The price is making a mental effort to open your mind and try them out. Are you up for that? Or have you dismissed them already? We’ll see – here are my two favourite models:

The first model: The ‘Six Windows’ model

honetpieThe first one was created by Dr Jim Byrne, and is called the ‘Six Windows model’. This, like the Smokey Robinson quote above, is a way to re-frame your problem or difficulty so that it shows up as less stressful.

It consists of five perspectives which Jim borrowed from Buddhism and Stoic philosophy, plus one which I contributed!

How to use the ‘Six windows’ model

Six-windows-model3

  1. Firstly, you think about the problem or hassle that is getting you down at the moment. Have you got a clear picture of it in your mind?
  2. Secondly, holding this problem firmly in your mind, you look at it through each of the windows in turn (see the diagram above).

At the top and bottom of each window is a statement that is a viewpoint on life, or a world view – or what some people would think of as a helpful belief. Now experiment with taking on this view of life for a few minutes, as if you decided to agree with the statement for a short time.

Read the statement and then think about your problem, from that viewpoint. Or, to say it another way, try the idea on for size like you would if you were getting a new suit from a shop.

As you look at your problem through the perspective of each of the windows, see if the statements have any effect on how you see your problem. Do it slowly and carefully, finishing up with Window No.6.

By the time you get to window No.6, if you have really taken the ideas on board, there should be a change in the way you see your current problem. And window No. 6 emphasises the ‘pay dirt’ that is in every problem that we have – the reward that we get for having it. Problems strengthen us in different ways!

These viewpoints, or world views, have been created over a long time. You don’t need to know their origins in order for them to work. This process is a bit like the way we use electricity. Most of us don’t know how electricity works, but we still can use and benefit from it.

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The second model:

robert-holden-bookRobert Holden’s STOP technique

The STOP technique is very simple, and the four letters stand for the following words: Strengths; Teaching; Opportunities; and Positive.  The idea is to ask yourself the following questions:

Strengths: What strengths do I have that could be used to help me to cope with this problem?

Teaching: What is this problem teaching me?

Opportunities: What opportunism arise through this problem?

Positive: Putting the negative aspects on one side for the moment, what positive things could come out of having this problem?

How to use the STOP technique

Here are some general guidelines on how to use it. Sit down in a quiet place with a pad and pen.  Then work through this checklist:

  1. Think of a problem or hassle that you have at the moment. Check out how you feel about it.
  1. Now write down a list of the strengths that you have developed in your life as you have coped with all the challenges that you have had to face. There will be a lot. If you have no idea, ask a family member or good friend who has seen you go through various dilemmas or difficulties. Ask them for some suggestions. These strengths will help you cope with the challenge you are now facing. It is good for you to see what resilience skills you have developed.

montapert-quote

  1. Then when you have finished the list, and have read through your strengths, return to your problem and ask yourself, “What is this problem teaching me?” 
  1. The next step is to look again at your problem, and ask yourself, “What opportunities am I getting from having this problem at this time?” There will be new skills or experiences that you can’t gain any other way than having to deal with the problem. “Problems are sent to test and teach us!”  Humans are problem seeking beings! 
  1. Finally, we come to the “Positive” bit – What have you got so far from having your problem? What have been the positive gains from having it? Search hard and there will be positive gains if you keep looking. The worst case scenario might be that having this big problem has taught you that you can endure big problems; that they don’t have to defeat you! But they can also make you a better problem-solver.

Einstein-callout.JPGNow return to how you originally felt about your problem before you took it through the ‘STOP’ model. Do you see the problem in the same way or has there been a shift in your view of it?

Conclusion

In this blog I have described two models, or mental strategies, which you can use as a way of tackling a problem that is getting you down, or you want to resolve in some way.

Both models work by getting you to see your problem from a different viewpoint, and if you try them out, you will get the benefits of being less affected by your problem than you were. You will have some hope and sense of possibility that wasn’t there before, and your mental ‘load’ will be lightened.

Also, you’ve got the models there to use again and again in the future, when life throws up another challenge, as it inevitably will. The more often you use the models, the quicker you will get at recovering from an unexpected problem.

Book-cover-frontThe models are taken from “Stressbusters” by Robert Holden, and “Holistic Counselling in Practice” by Dr Jim Byrne, if you want to know more about the origins of the models.

And if you want to learn a range of such models, you can also consult me for coaching/counselling in the area of problem solving and decision making, using thinking skills: including the Skilled Helper model from Gerard Egan.

Happy thinking!

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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