Do You See Problems or Solutions?

Problem-oriented thinkers consider the source or cause of the problem rather deeply, whereas solution-oriented thinkers are geared toward coming up with answers for how to fix them.
Analyzing the problem is a matter of thinking, but searching for a solution to fix it is doing.

Someone with the problem-oriented mindset obsesses on the problem itself.
They wonder what went wrong.
They get upset that it keeps happening.
They seek blame and responsibility for the problem, and the only answer they have for the problem is to “avoid it.” They are unable to move past their negative feelings regarding a problem or obstacle.
People with the solution-oriented mindset seek answers about a problem, then aggressively look for ways to fix it.

They don’t have to remind themselves over and over that the problem is there—they know that.
But staying in a feedback loop doesn’t help the situation, so the solution-oriented mindset looks for answers that will work now and in the future.
There are times when the problem-oriented approach is appropriate, most commonly if one is trying to find ways to stop the problem from continually recurring.
But unless we take the next step and think about how to solve the problems that come up, we’re squandering that effort in the big picture.
Solution-oriented thinking takes on a different methodology toward mending a given problem.
The first step is to sidestep questions that center on the problem and its causes.

Asking why takes away from resolution efforts.
It’s just echoing the problem itself, not coming up with creative and effective solutions.
Instead of asking why, the solution-oriented mindset asks, “What now?” For example, let’s say you’re having a hard time grasping a certain math concept.
You can spend a few minutes wondering why you’re having an issue with it.
If you go down that rabbit hole, you’ll start wondering what the point of learning this particular concept is anyway.

Why do you need to know this? What purpose will it serve in my life? With each line of inquiry like this, you’re getting further away from working on the solution—which would entail going back to step one, examining how you arrived at the point you’re at now, and looking for alternative routes to get to the answer.
To come up with a solution in this mindset, determine what your existing conditions are now (Point A) and how you eventually want them to turn out (Point B).
By getting a clear understanding of each point and the gap between them, you’ll get a much better sense of what you need to do.
Think of the problem in terms of checklists.
You could make a list of everything that’s going wrong.
Alternatively, you could make a list that describes potential solutions.
Only one of these checklists is actionable.
The only actions you can derive from a list of problems are complaining and fixating on failure.
With a list of actions, you have options you can immediately take.
Only the action list has real value.

To practice your solution mindset, ask yourself these questions about how to handle a given job or dilemma: • How can I solve this problem? • How can I address this task? • How do I get from Point A to Point B? • What’s the first step to solving this problem? • How do I prepare to get this solution rolling? Coincidentally, these are all questions that force you into action.

So let’s say you’re running a cupcake shop.
Your product is tasty, but it’s not selling well, at least not in comparison to other cupcake shops in the general area.
The problem-oriented person would probably grouse about the situation and fixate on the trouble, so much so that they’re helpless to improve it.
You can check off a big list of factors that are affecting your business—location, no publicity, oversaturation of the market—but once you identify one, you have to start solving it instead of dwelling on it.
You have cupcakes to make, dammit.
How can I solve this problem? By proving you have a certain edge over other cupcake makers—better recipes, more savvy publicity, developing something unique that makes you different.
How can I address this task? Let’s just take the publicity angle for now.
You can make catchier flyers, maybe come up with some funny (or terrible) puns for your cupcakes, look into cheap or free advertising, or have someone stand on the corner in a cupcake costume.
(If Subway can do it with people in sandwich costumes, cupcake costumes can’t look any more ridiculous.) How do I get from Point A to Point B? Point A is where you are now—middling success at best.
Point B is where you want to be—basically a cupcake magnate.
You get from Point A to Point B by making a high- quality, well-marketed product that people go out of their way to obtain.

What’s the first step to solving this problem? Sticking with the publicity angle: you look at sample advertising and marketing efforts, preferably from other, successful cupcake companies, and make note of their strategies.
Then you try to adapt them to your own style so you won’t be copying them and you’ll look unique.
How do I prepare to get this solution rolling? Block off some time when you can research and take notes on your publicity research, think of a company, associate, or friend who would be willing to work on it (if you can’t do it yourself), and find information on ad styles and rates in local alt- weeklies.
Also, find where to incorporate these assets on your website.
(You must have a website, right?) I’m all in favor of quality thinking, analysis, and mental preparation for absolutely everything—but only as much as you need to start working.
Great ideas are as much a process of experimentation, action, and solving the problems that come up in activity.
With an action mindset taking precedence over a thinking mindset, you open up a virtual treasure chest of possibilities that can’t come from theorizing alone.

From Motivation to Action

The final way to impart a take-action mindset is to understand the real way in which motivation appears.
It would be five-million times easier to achieve our goals if we all knew how to motivate ourselves 100% of the time.
It would be like pressing a magical button that jolts us out of bed and into work.
Whenever our energy is faltering, we could just press the button again, and we’d be injected with another dose of that good stuff and become correspondingly productive.
The closest legal thing we have to this is coffee, but even that has waning effects.
It’s easier to feel motivated when you like a project or when you’re doing something you are genuinely passionate about.
But let’s be realistic—there are days when just the mere act of leaving your bed is a challenge and a huge accomplishment.
For most of us, we don’t enjoy what we do enough to feel motivated by it.
An artist may be inspired and motivated to bring her visions into reality, but for the rest of us? We’re really just trying to scrape together enough willpower to get us through our days.
This is all to clarify motivation’s role in taking action and getting started.
Whatever your goals, motivation plays an important role and can spell the difference between success and failure.
It’s one of the most important ingredients to influence your drive and ambition, but we’re thinking about it all wrong.
When we think about motivation, we want something that will light a spark in us and make us jump up from the couch and deeply into our tasks.

We want motivation that causes action.
There are a few problems with this, namely the fact that you’re probably looking for something that doesn’t exist, and that’s going to keep you waiting on the sidelines, out of action, and out of the race.
This type of motivation, if you ever find it, is highly unreliable.
If you feel that you need motivation that causes action, you are doing it wrong.
For instance, a writer who feels they are unable to write without some form of motivation or inspiration is going to stare at a blank page for hours.
End of story.
The truth is, you should plan for life without a motivating kickstart.
Seeking that motivation creates a prerequisite and additional barrier to action.
Get into the habit of proceeding without it.
And surprisingly, this is where you’ll find what you were seeking.
Action leads to motivation, more motivation, and eventually momentum.
The more you work for something, the more meaningful it becomes to you.
Your own actions will be your fuel to move forward.
After you’ve taken your first step and have seen progress from your efforts, motivation will come easier and more naturally, as will inspiration and discipline.
You’ll fall into a groove, and suddenly, you’ll be in your work mood/mode.
The first step will always be the hardest step, but the second step won’t be.
For repetition’s sake, forget motivation; get started, and you’ll become motivated.
Taking the first step is tough, but consider that, aside from motivation, just getting started gives you many other things.
For instance, confidence also follows action.
After all, how do you expect to be confident about something when you haven’t even tried? A taste of action tells you that everything will be okay and you have nothing to fear.
This is confidence rooted in firsthand experience, which is easier to find as opposed to false confidence that you get from trying to convince yourself before the fact that you can do it.
Public speaking is almost always a scary proposition.
Consider how you might try to find confidence that causes action: you would tell yourself it will all be fine, imagine the audience members in their underwear, and remind yourself of your hours of rehearsal.
Now consider how you might find confidence after getting started—how action can cause confidence.
“I did it and it was fine” is an easier argument to make versus “I haven’t done it yet, but I think it will be fine.” The most important takeaway here is to not wait until you are 100% ready before you take the first step or that motivation is a necessary part of your process.
It will probably never feel like you’re completely ready.
But starting down the road will motivate you more than anything else will before the fact, so allow your actions to motivate you and build confidence.
Change your expectations regarding motivation, and remove the self-imposed requirements you have for yourself.

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