Healthy attitudes and approaches to problem-solving --(a
summary from a variety of sources)
Self-awareness: recognize when there is a problem and see the
problem clearly. We can hardly solve a problem if we don't admit we
have one. If we minimize or distort the situation (as when we use ego
defenses) or get overly emotional, our problem-solving efforts are
handicapped. Indeed, some efforts aimed at reducing stress might
interfere with finding permanent, complete solutions, e.g. if we used
drugs or relaxation to reduce stress, we might be less motivated or
inclined to explore the underlying causes of the distress and do
something about the true causes.
Take action: make a commitment, when appropriate, to attacking
and controlling the problem, to DOING SOMETHING. This action-
oriented attitude, like self-efficacy, is comprised of several factors: (1)
a belief that the problem is modifiable, (2) that we can personally
conquer or control the disturbing situation (self-efficacy), and (3) that
there will be worthwhile benefits derived from taking direct action.
These positive beliefs are based on what worked for us in the past, on
observing or talking to or getting support from others, or on learning
new skills and knowledge. Being familiar with a systematic, rational
approach to problem-solving, like Mahoney's (1979) "personal science"
or this book, might encourage a person to plan carefully and to act
On the other hand, when the problem is insolvable, the strong,
stress-tolerant person recognizes his/her predicament and avoids a lot
of pitfalls: He/she stops trying to achieve the impossible. He/she may
even provide him/herself with excuses (Snyder, Higgins, & Stucky,
1983). He/she does his/her best, then takes a "wait and see what
happens" attitude, avoiding the stressful situations whenever possible.
If we are blessed with a sense of humor and if we can see the
smallness of ourselves and our problems, it is helpful.
The serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the
courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
If the problem doesn't seem impossible but is not getting resolved,
the good problem-solver avoids giving up prematurely, doesn't burn
bridges, avoids "caving in" and making a bad bargain (e.g. always
putting others ahead of self), avoids escaping excessively into fantasy,
drugs, TV, music, etc., and avoids being a sore loser and all the other
negative consequences of stress listed above.