Smart businessman thinking about something in office

Do you tend to focus on problems or solutions? Your answer has a lot to do with your contentment as well as your effectiveness at work. They are two distinct mindsets that bring very different results. Focusing on solutions helps you stay positive and also helps to motivate those around you. Let’s look at the advantages of a solutions mindset as well as some tips on cultivating this attitude.

What is a Solutions Mindset?

It’s not always easy to differentiate between a problem vs a solutions mindset. Most of us like to think that we’re positive, proactive, and solutions-oriented in our thinking. We don’t always know ourselves that well, however. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the problem and never even reach the point of looking for a solution.

For example, you may find a certain colleague or co-worker challenging to deal with. You can simply label him a difficult person and minimize interaction. Or you can try to see things from his point of view and find common ground. There’s evidence that adapting your behavioral style to others enhances your ability to communicate.

Or suppose you identify a certain service or software suite that would allow you to do things more efficiently. You also see, however, that it’s beyond your budget. Wishing you had more money for something is typical of a problem-oriented mindset. Instead, you could shift your focus and search for a cheaper alternative that performs a similar function. The same circumstances can be seen as a temporary roadblock or a permanent obstacle, depending on your point of view.

It’s important to understand that being focused on solutions doesn’t mean that you’re denying the existence of a problem. The first step in moving forward in any situation is to honestly assess the facts. It’s essential to identify challenges. The trick is to not get fixated on them. This is the main difference between having an optimistic rather than a pessimistic mindset.

The Benefits of a Positive Mindset

Having a positive, optimistic, or solutions-oriented mindset brings several key advantages.

  • Reduces stress. Many people today find their jobs or businesses stressful. Your state of mind has a lot to do with your levels of stress. Being optimistic can help you manage stress which is beneficial to both your physical and mental health.
  • Make better financial decisions. A study conducted by Frost Bank found that optimists are more likely to make intelligent financial decisions. This makes sense when you consider it. Pessimists, who focus on negative outcomes, tend to live in a defensive mode, trying to avert disaster. An optimist is thinking about ways to profit. Of course, you also need to analyze things like data, business plans, and past performance.
  • The entrepreneurial mindset. Businesses, by nature, thrive on optimism. You really need an optimistic bent to be an entrepreneur. If you think about all of the things that can go wrong, you’ll never start a business in the first place.
  • Sales. Nowhere is a solutions mindset more critical than in sales. One of the classical challenges of sales professionals is how to overcome objections. Customers are often very good at coming up with problems. A good salesperson knows how to shift the focus to benefits. In order to do this, of course, you need to be focused in a positive direction yourself.

The Need for Balance

While it’s advantageous to have an optimistic, solutions-focused mindset, it’s equally important to acknowledge reality. If there’s one potential drawback to unbridled optimism it’s that you can become blind to the possibility of failure. Taken to an extreme, this can lead to unhealthy risk-taking.

One study found that optimistic entrepreneurs actually earn less than those who are more pessimistic. Entrepreneurs often need to balance their naturally optimistic personalities with a realistic analysis of the situation. If you’re marketing a product, for example, you need to do ample research to gauge demand. Simply being optimistic won’t create sales. This doesn’t undermine the benefits of being solutions-oriented. If your mindset is truly focused on solutions, you are not a blind optimist. You are looking at all of the data and seeking ways to overcome challenges. A pure optimist, on the other hand, is more likely to deny and disregard problems.

Guidelines for a Solutions Mindset

Here are some tips to keep your focus on solutions.

Identify Problems and Challenges as Soon as Possible

This may seem counter-intuitive for a solutions mindset but it actually works. Problems are generally easier to deal with when spotted early. This gives you a chance to adjust your strategy or quell the problem while it’s manageable. Health problems are a good example of this. It’s equally true in the realm of finance. If you’re running an ad campaign with a poor ROI, the sooner you realize it the sooner you can stop pouring more money into it.

Break it Down

It’s hard to think of a solution to a gigantic problem. However, when you break it down into a series of manageable tasks, it’s less intimidating. You may be able to delegate certain tasks and lighten your load.

Ask an Expert

Very often, what is an insurmountable obstacle to one person is a simple matter to someone else. For example, if you don’t have a technical background, editing your website can be a major challenge. For someone on your web development team or IT department, meanwhile, it might be a 10-minute job. If you don’t have a dedicated employee or team to address the issue, look into outsourcing. Sometimes a “problem” is just something outside your particular skill set. If you’re one of those extremely self-sufficient entrepreneurs, you may have to remind yourself of this.

Decide Whether to Push Forward, Change Your Approach or Give Up

Every situation is a little different. In some cases, the solution is to hunker down and get to work. If this is the case, try to get as much help as possible. You may also need to change your approach. In some cases, such as a product that your customers simply don’t like, you may need to acknowledge that it’s time to give up on that particular idea. If you find yourself grappling with a persistent problem that seems to defy an easy solution, this is often a clue that you need to try something different.

Don’t Fear Failure

When you have a problem-oriented mindset you’re usually worried about certain undesirable outcomes. While you do need to consider the costs and consequences of an action, you should also rethink the whole idea of failure. When you don’t fear failure it frees you to a great extent. When you’re looking for solutions you have to be willing to experiment. The experimental approach is to constantly collect information. When something doesn’t work, you don’t think of it as a failure but as valuable feedback.

A solutions mindset doesn’t make problems magically disappear. It does, however, allow you to shift your focus and tackle challenges in a more constructive way. Very often, you can deal with a situation more effectively by reframing the way you look at it.

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