First 30 Days Blog

04 sep

Problem Generating vs. Problem Solving: Choosing the Right Path to Confidence and Success

Kerrigan2Life is filled with change. It is also filled with choice. Success is largely based on the choices we make when facing change.

Many of the changes we face are not welcome and quite challenging, such as getting laid off; going through a restructuring; and doing more with less at work. And, many of us believe that if we worry enough, we can control the outcome.

Well, we can’t. No one can. The only thing we control is ourselves, and how we react to change: Our thoughts and actions. Confidence is all about self control.

When we face change, we come to a fork in the road, and choose from 2 paths: The problem generating path and the problem solving path.

The problem generating path is where we create problems by being too negative. We lose confidence on this path, and we lose our way. It’s where we:

  1. Dwell on the past
  2. Worry about the future
  3. Doubt ourselves
  4. Shut down
  5. Get stuck

“Dwell” is the operative word here. It’s natural to feel anxious and fearful at first. In fact, discomfort often drives change. But, when we dwell on the negative, we mentally go around and around and come out at the same place—nowhere.

Let’s take getting laid off and having to job hunt as an example. Dwelling on the negative may sound like this: “Eh—it’s still the summer—not a great time to look for a job. I really don’t feel like doing this. I really miss my old team. I hate interviewing. I hate networking. I’m not good at either. I’m still upset that they let me go. Is there something wrong with me? Can I really do this? What if I can’t find anything? What if I fail?”

Sound familiar? Doesn’t get us very far, does it?

Now, let’s look at the problem solving path. When we problem solve, we gain confidence. We move forward and succeed. It’s on this path that we:

  1. Acknowledge and accept our fears
  2. Take control—talk ourselves through it
  3. Begin to think positively
  4. Ask “What are our next steps?”
  5. Take action
  6. Turn fear and doubt into planning and action

This path helps us deal instead of dwell. We take control, think empowering thoughts, ask better questions and take action.

It may sound like this: “OK—I might not be thrilled with job hunting, but I’m not going to let that stop me. First, I’m going to educate myself about the companies that I like. Then, I’m going to brush up on my interview skills and reach out to my connections and ask ‘Who can help me?’”

See how it changes? Which path holds us back and which one takes us forward and closer to our goals?

Change is coming at all of us at breakneck speed, and the velocity is increasing. Who knows what the future will bring?

So, our ability to deal with change –by making better choices, and problem solving, not problem generating —will have a big impact on our confidence and success.

It’s time to take control–we are in for the ride of our lives!

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert consultant and coach in workplace success who helps corporate and private clients develop the practical skills and confidence they need to improve their performance and productivity.

Based on her 25 years’ leadership experience, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change and solving day-to-day challenges. Michelle writes and speaks on the impact self esteem has on success, and produces a series for public TV, entitled Workplace Confidence. More at and

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Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on September 4th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, New Directions | 0 comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

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