“Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity.”    Gerhard Gschwandtner

Problems are like mini volcanoes. They can lay dormant for months or years before suddenly erupting. The molten rock and ash pouring forth are the helpless feelings of fear, stress, inadequacy, anxiety, anger (and sometimes guilt) that can accompany a pressing problem. Mix in a tinge of panic and you have total chaos – which isn’t helpful in dealing with the situation.

Here are some everyday problems that can wreak havoc with our equilibrium:

  1. The co-worker you pick up every morning is often late.
  2. You can’t seem to get out of the procrastination rut.
  3. Your mother-in-law’s critical remark about your child-rearing skills is eating you up.
  4. Difficult neighbors
  5. Overdue bills

I can honestly say that “everything I know about Creative Problem Solving, I learned in kindergarten!” ???? My beloved grandfather, who lived with us, used to pick me up every day from kindergarten, as my parents, were busy working in the store. I loved showing him all my “artwork” from class as he patiently rested on his cane. One day, as I was excitedly waving a drawing that I retrieved from my coat pocket, I froze.

This wasn’t my picture! As I stood there, devastated, my eyes caught one of my classmates happily waving her artwork in front of her mother….and it was the picture I had drawn. She obviously preferred my scribble-scrabble to her scribble-scrabble, but I wasn’t flattered.  I quickly began jabbering about the injustice that had just occurred, but my grandfather simply smiled at me lovingly, not quite comprehending, and we walked home.

By the next day I had a plan – which, incidentally, did not involve sharing my problem with my parents or teacher. I was a quiet kid, almost timid. This was partially because I was still self-conscious about my English speaking skills (my first language is Hungarian) and felt more comfortable taking care of things by myself. So… what did I do?

I snuck over to the coat cubbies towards the end of the day. First, I removed my classmate’s drawing from my coat pocket, then smuggled my artwork out of her coat pocket. Then I made the switch. Interestingly, I only had to carry out this espionage for another two or three days before it was no longer an issue. Problem solved!

If it were only this easy! Actually, it doesn’t have to be hard.  When we’re presented with a problem, we can be certain that the solution is already inside our heart, mind and spirit….we just have to retrieve it.

Here are three steps to follow. Hint: Try to feel as calm and optimistic as possible before you dive in. Immerse yourself in Emunah and know that Hashem has already opened your pipeline for Yeshuos.

A – Assess the problem:

  1. When did it begin?
  2. How long has it been going on?
  3. How is it diminishing my quality of life?
  4. List all emotional responses
  5. What’s the worst case scenario that this problem can bring? Then ask: Is that a realistic assessment?

B – Brainstorm:

  1. What resources are available to me to deal with this problem?
  2. Can anyone be approached to offer me advice – perhaps a parent or Rav?
  3. Make a list of all possible options. Never veto a “crazy idea” at this stage – respect your creativity!
  4. Break large problems into smaller chunks that can be more easily dealt with.

C – Create Your Action Plan:

  1. This can be as simple as making a phone call or writing a note to a teacher or presenting someone with a poem that explains your position.
  2. Perhaps you can completely deflate the problem, for example: Make a habit of occasionally asking your mother-in-law for advice/simple ideas/recipes. Soon she’ll be your strongest ally.
  3. Map out your problem solving goals and create a timeline for achieving them.
  4. Yes…sometimes the creative solution lies in simply believing in yourself!

Problem solving isn’t child’s play – but sometimes all we need is to let go of our adult limitations and capitalize on our child-like creativity!