Years ago a friend told me there are at least six solutions to any given problem. I’m not sure where he got that theory, but it inspires me to think outside of the box when facing what seems to be an either-or situation. An example of this type of problem is when my husband and I had to select a legal guardian for our children in the event that, God forbid, anything happens to us both at once. The dilemma was that, despite loving and appreciating both sides of our family very much, we each wanted our own sibling in that role. It looked like a choice with just two options. By getting creative, however, we were able to uncover multiple possibilities that could honor both of our desires.
This week, I’ve been mulling over a different challenge before me. I reminded and encouraged myself that there must be many remedies available. To discover them, I need to apply a process I’ve synthesized, from various experiences along the way, that helps me navigate tricky matters. I thought I’d share it with you too:
Nine Steps Toward a Creative Solution:
1. Determine what is the actual problem. Get clear on the heart of the matter. What are your thoughts and beliefs about the situation; why is it a problem for you?
2. Consult the people involved and your best thinkers — trusted friends who have skills for reasoning things out. The key to finding many alternatives is to engage many minds.
3. Ask everyone to do a stream-of-consciousness exercise wherein they list any ideas that come to mind for how this problem might be solved. Questions to help foster this process are: How can this situation be improved upon? What options have I seen others try to remedy a similar situation? What is the most loving thing to do for all involved, including myself? This first inventory is private, so feel free to let the imagination run wild.
4. Next, look at what you’ve written down and decide what can be forwarded to a master list that will include everyone’s best ideas.
5. Make that master list and take a look at all the offerings on the table. If any hybrids emerge, where two or more ideas come together to make another option, add those to the master list as well.
6. Have an open discussion with those consulted about what’s been suggested, and strike from the master list anything that is truly objectionable for you or anyone else involved. What’s left will be all the worthwhile possibilities.
7. Sit with these remaining opportunities. Prayerfully consider which option brings the most serenity all around, and continue to narrow down the master list accordingly.
8. Select one idea you are willing to try. If needed, set a time frame for how long this idea gets a chance before reevaluating it. If there is no consensus on an idea to try, put the matter on the shelf for a limited period of time, and commit to a date when you can try this process again.
9. Celebrate any progress made!
So, how creative can you be in resolving a challenging issue in your life? May you be inspired!
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