5 Steps to Stronger Problem-Solving Skills

Life is full of problems – that’s a truth we all live everyday. Even if you don’t think much about it, we’re always having to solve problems in school, at work, or even at home. No matter who you are, having strong problem-solving skills will be crucial as you move through life.

There are many ways you can get better at breaking down and solving problems, though. Especially when it comes to the more important choices you make, there are ways to improve so you can be ready to tackle whatever comes at you.

With that in mind, here are five different steps you can take to strengthen your problem-solving skills.

1. Use the 5 Whys to Fully Identify Your Problem

The “5 Whys” is a framework that helps for problem-solving, in which you keep asking “why” to get to the core of what is causing your problem. By digging deeper and seeing how things lead into each other, you’ll have a much better grasp on how to tackle your problem.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you don’t have to dig too deep. Other times, things might not be so simple. Either way, this method provides a surefire strategy to define the root of your problem. From here, you can start formulating ideas so you can make an action plan.

2. Write Out Every Potential Solution You Can Think of

This plays a lot into brainstorming, which is an effective way of getting ideas for potential solutions. Though, it’s important that you don’t hold back on any of your ideas, no matter how silly they might be.

While the “crazy” ideas are not normally the ones that we stick with, they are incredibly helpful in getting you closer to a solution. So, let your mind be free as you come up with different ideas.

Not only that, but don’t be hard on yourself for anything you come up with. No matter how unrealistic they seem, all of your ideas will help fuel your search for the perfect fix to your problem.

3. Have a Solution-Focused Mindset

There are several steps you need to take to change your mindset to focus on finding solutions, rather than staying stuck on just the problem. Of course, I don’t mean to stop caring about the problem entirely, but you need to put yourself in the best mindset so you can tackle it successfully.

The first step you need to take is to keep a level head. By doing so, your mind will be in a better state to think through your situation and figure out what to do.

The next step is to change your way of thinking by seeing struggles as opportunities for growth. While this is not something that happens quickly, it goes a long way. Not only will you have an easier time when fixing problems, but you’ll feel less pressured as you try to solve them.

Finally, control your reactions and look at where you can improve. It can be incredibly easy for us to get lost in our emotions when things go wrong. When we let ourselves become caught up by the negativity, we can no longer deal with the problem at hand. In order to overcome this, you must focus objectively on your situation and think greatly about what needs to happen next. Always look at all of your options – you might have some opportunities you can take advantage of.

By shifting your mindset towards working at solutions and taking action, you put yourself in a much better position for everything you have to deal with. Out of all of the entries on this list, I recommend that you take the most time practicing this one. It may be something that will stick with you for a long time.

4. Focus Your Questions on Finding a Solution, Instead of Just the Problem

An excellent way to go about solving problems is by asking questions, as they can give us a lot of insight and information. However, are we always looking in the right direction with our questions?

As I highlighted earlier, we can easily get stuck in a problem when it arises, dealing with emotions that hold us back from finding solutions. When it comes to asking questions, not all of them should be about just the problem.

Focus your questions on working at a solution and what it could be. By doing this, you are actively shifting your mindset towards improvement, which will prove much more effective. From there, you can start making the changes you need to fix your problems.

5. Reach Out to Others for Advice

Not everyone is eager to go to someone else when they’re struggling with something. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and look to others for help. Whether you talk to friends, colleagues, or family, you’ll get different viewpoints on your situation that can be incredibly useful.

Not only that, but it can be good to get some encouragement and support as you look for solutions. Even if times are tough, having people who are there for you can make a big difference. In the end, it might be just what you need to come up with a solution for your situation.


Without question, problems are something we have to face many times throughout our lives. However, they shouldn’t be something we run from or fear – they are all opportunities for us to learn and grow as individuals, even if things seem bad at first.

Not only that, but they tell us a lot about where we are currently, and it can be a wake-up call that things have to change. Whatever problems you face in life, there are ways to work through and overcome them. Though, it is important for us to reflect on them as well, as they show us that something in our lives isn’t working.

I hope that these steps can help you have more control over the problems you deal with, and that you can continue to grow with enough practice. Over time, I assure you that you’ll get where you want to be, and you’ll learn many things along the way.

Published by Gerardo Lucena

Gerardo Lucena is a Junior at the University of Michigan pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. He has programming experience in C++, and he has worked with Michigan Hyperloop and MRover during his first two years at the University.

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