According to ASQ.org, problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution. This is a multi-step process.
When I left my childhood home at the age of 16 in order to attend college (I had skipped grades), I initially faced quite a few problems. Fortunately, because I was able to analyze and seek counsel from competent, intelligent individuals, I was able to resolve all of these issues.
I was the first of my mother’s children to leave the nest and travel to a big city when I went to S.P. College in Pune. Compared to the small town I was raised in (Panvel), Pune was huge.
Prior to registering at the college, my mother took me to see her paternal uncle Dr. Sonopant Dandekar, who was a well-respected philosophy professor, as well as a former principal of the college. My mother asked him what I should study and he advised us that I should pursue a liberal arts degree.
My mother took this advice to heart and soon paid my fees. Later that afternoon, I was enrolled in a handful of introductory philosophy courses.
Within a week of study, it became clear to me that my mother’s uncle had been swayed by his own adoration for liberal arts and, though the subject had been the best option for him, it wasn’t the best option for me. Not only was I not intrigued by the subject matter as a whole, the material was also very easy to grasp, lending itself to self-instruction.
I had always had a passion for sciences and I knew that I would need instruction to master the concepts within these fields. I couldn’t do a chemistry or physics lab by myself, nor could or would I dissect a frog to learn its anatomy on my own time. I needed guidance.
Resolute with my decision, I simply attended the science lectures and classes instead of the humanities courses. One of the professors asked, “What are you doing here? You are not enrolled in my course.” I told him I wanted to learn hard sciences, fundamental sciences, and that my mother had enrolled me in the arts college. I expressed my love of physics and organic chemistry to him. I think he liked my answers and he suggested that I register in science courses.
The next time I went home, I informed my mother that I had changed my selection from Liberal Arts to Sciences and I presented my grades to her. These grades were the proof that my decision had been a good one. She thought so too.
Let’s take a step-by-step look at what analytical skills I used.
Identifying The Problem (Step 1): I knew from the get-go that I liked Sciences, but I still took the time to delve into and explore Liberal Arts. I also spoke with students in both programs to gain insight. Many female classmates that were studying Arts told me that they were planning to attend school for a couple of years before heading back home to get married. Their fathers had sent them to college so that after having studied a couple of years in a college their chances of getting better husbands would improve. I was shocked. This made me realize how lucky I was to have a mother who was working hard for me to have a real education, not only so I could “angle” for a better husband.
Pin Pointing What Was Causing the Problem (Step 2): The bottom line was that I was enrolled in courses for a subject I had little to no interest in. I looked at the alternative and decided what I really wanted to do. Understanding where your passion lies is truly an analytical activity, as it requires you to consider pros and cons (which, incidentally, happens in Step 3).
Identifying, prioritizing and selecting alternatives for a solution (Step 3): I knew that attending Science classes was the best solution for the problem I was facing and therefore I decided I should just visit the science classes, although I also attended first the Arts classes and determined that the material was not for me. I might have disappointed my mother’s uncle but I didn’t think that he had given a lot of thought when he suggested that I should attend the Arts classes. It was just a quick answer he could think of. Next time I visited him he didn’t ask anything about Arts vs. Sciences and I kept mum.
Implementing a Solution (Step 4): I didn’t wait to enroll in the Sciences classes, I just began attending them since I did not want to miss any learning material. Because my fees had already been paid, I was not “freeloading”. I stood up for what I wanted to do and have never regretted this decision.
Can you think of any problems you have had learning new skills? And if you did, how did you resolve them? Readers and I would love to hear about the problems and their resolutions. Please share them. You know that “Shared sorrow is half the sorrow and shared happiness is double the happiness”.
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