If anyone tries to sell you the secret to success, walk away because they are trying to rip you off. There is no magical solution and no mystery to it. In fact, there is no secret!
Scientists have repeatedly studied people who do well in life, solving problems effectively and almost effortlessly. Based on this, they have compiled a list of things that you need to do.

No one can sell you success, but you can achieve it for yourself!

Psychologist John Bransford, backed up by extensive research and a team of scientists, has identified five steps that lead to effective problem solving – identify, define, explore, act, and look and learn – ideal, you might say.

1. Identify your problem.

As we’ve discussed before, you can’t begin to solve a problem if you don’t know what it is! Problem solving is not time to be overly emotional, panicked or overwhelmed. Quite the opposite, it is time for rational observation and decision making. So, try to gain some perspective and see the big picture, until you see clearly where and what your problem is.

2. Define your problem clearly.

Once you pin-point the issue, it’s time to look at it from all angles, define and understand it’s nature. Is it an economical problem? An emotional problem? A health problem? Is it an issue in your relationship with your partner, boss, parent or child?

At this stage you need to be open and honest with yourself. After you understand your problem better, you’ll begin to understand yourself better.

3. Explore possible solutions and relevant knowledge.

After you’ve defined your problem, you should already have a better idea how to go about it. In addition, you’ll need to spend some time exploring possible solutions and gathering relevant information. At this stage, it’s normal to consult with specialist (and/or your friends), to spend hours on Google, or just brainstorm possible options.

Don’t become overwhelmed if you find there is a lot to learn on the issue. After all, we live in the Information Era, and apart from the internet, there is no single expert on a topic. Don’t try to become one either. Just gather enough information, so that you can make informed decisions. You want to be prepared for action.

4. Act. Try out the possible solutions.

Chances are that your problem is not going to disappear or solve itself if you just ponder on possible solutions. Sooner or later, it’s time for action. Even if you don’t feel you’ve found the best solution, don’t get discouraged. Give it your best try and you might as well succeed. If you don’t, you will at least move a little closer to where you want to get.

5. Look at the results and learn from them.

Whether you succeed or not, you should take a moment and evaluate the results. Learn from them! If you have failed, you apparently need to make some improvements to your approach and try again. “Why would I sit down and reflect if I’ve just won the battle?”, you might ask. Well, it’s simple – perpetual self-improvement. If you look back on the whole process, you might realize that you could have spent more time doing one thing and less time doing another. When you have a similar problem in the future, you’ll be able to tweak things and get even better results.

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