Some people have a knack of finding solutions. They aren’t the most brilliant person in the room, or even the most resourceful. Yet ideas strike them more often, propositions occur to them more clearly, and they generate more options and choices. How do they do that? Well, while other factors like knowledge, experience and preparation do play their part, it also has a lot to do with the way they look at the problem – think about the problem. Actually, that’s where they are different – they don’t think about the problem, as much as they think about the ways to solve them.
Yes, often the problem lies in the way we look at the problem. It’s about the ‘mode’ of thinking one is in. After all, every activity’s efficacy is affected by the broad mechanism or overall orientation. All ‘micros’ have a way of aligning with the ‘macro’. Work frames itself to fit the framework. So it is less about ‘how you are wired’ and more about ‘how you plug it in’. Before we discuss this point in details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it is relevant in professional and personal context…
You heard it right! You get solution of problems when you are thinking, not about the problem, but about the solution. And for that, you have to shift your focus – rather than getting concerned, you have to be forward-looking. Actually, whenever we come across a difficult situation, it is easy and natural to begin to think what went wrong and where. This is fine as long as you are doing introspection for limited duration, but when it needlessly becomes long and regressive, then by getting turned into problem-mindset, it further reduces the probability of solution. Well, like for any behavior, the root of this point lies in neuroscience.
Let’s look at our brain for answers to two questions. First question – why do people think more about the problems rather than solutions? Well! Actually, our brain likes both certainty and convenience, because both are metabolically less expensive – which means that in both cases, brain requires less oxygen and glucose. Problems are in the past, and to answer the question related to them, brain’s medial prefrontal cortex portion gets activated and connects with brain’s memory center hippocampus.
Now, in our brain, there are already millions of circuits related to past and memory, and for brain’s electrical impulses, it is less energy-intensive to go there, because they are familiar and frequented circuits for us. In this manner, thinking about the problem gives to the brain both of his favorites – certainty and convenience. And that’s why people think more about problems.
Now the second question: For solutions, why is it necessary to have a solution-mindset instead of a problem-mindset? Although, prima-facie, our brain likes certainty and convenience, if it gets a glimpse or a taste of productivity and pleasure, then that gives it a much greater high. Now, when we are oriented towards searching for solutions, rather than taking information sequentially and feeding it to our linear left-hemisphere, we scan the environment for cues and activate our more holistic and creative right-hemisphere from where come the insightful solutions of complex problems.
This act has more chances of being productive. Moreover, by doing something novel and by getting into an expectant mode, a feel-good chemical dopamine gets secreted in the brain, which gives a pleasurable feeling. So here it is…brain gets its more favorites – productivity and pleasure. Sounds great! Isn’t it? Well, but to do it this way, social & emotional intelligence is needed.
This ‘emotional & social intelligence’ is about one’s understanding of the structure and operation of human brain, and how they shape our behaviors and choices. This confluence of neuroscience and psychology sets the base for developing emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, this all-important skill of all intrapersonal & interpersonal skills can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…“Solution to many problems is to have a solution-mindset”.
Dr. Sandeep Atre
‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert
Founder – Socialigence
Note: Socialigence (www.socialigence.net) offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.