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New Year Resolution Solution: The 6 A’s of Change

New Year Resolution Solution: The 6 A’s of Change

With the New Year in full effect, many of us are focusing on keeping our New Year’s Resolution(s).

It seems that everyone has changes they want or need to make with the commencement of the new year. Historically, New Year resolutions were said to be made for things such as paying off debts owed, returning things borrowed, or righting perceived wrongs.

In today’s age, many of us continue to set goals for ourselves at the start of each new year. Some of us choose to set specific goals such as losing a certain amount of weight by a certain date or decreasing the amount of carbonated drinks we intake.

While others choose more general, less specific goals such as be more organized, be healthier, or manage time better.

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Whatever your goals or New Year’s resolutions are, there almost always seems to be the assumption that we won’t keep our New Year’s resolutions by the end of the year. Most of the changes we wish to make are positive habits we hope to incorporate and establish in our everyday lives. Your belief that these goals are not attainable may actually be influencing your ability to make a change.

Our problem is that we tend to focus on the obstacles that may be placed in front of us that can prevent or hinder our goal attainment rather than focusing on the actual process towards attaining those resolutions. Some models like the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, are great guides to assist with understanding our levels of change.

So, how do we ensure we meet our goals and resolutions before another ball drops (literally and figuratively)? I’d like to provide you with what I like to call the New Year resolution solution! Let’s tackle our 2017 goals with …

The Six A’s of Change!

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1. Awareness

As the old saying goes, the first step towards change is admitting that change is necessary. Being aware and acknowledging that change is needed is the first step towards tackling a goal. It takes strength to understand that change is needed. Believe it or not, some people don’t realize when change is needed. This change can be external while others can be internal. It truly takes a sense of mindfulness to become aware that change is warranted. Mindfulness practice can be beneficial establishing awareness towards needed changes in your life. If you are at this step, give yourself a pat on the back! You are one step closer towards your goal.

2. Assessment

If there is something in your life you wish to change on a permanent basis, it may be helpful to attempt to understand the origin.

For example: let’s say you have a certain behavior you wish to change. Assessing where the behavior may stem from can be beneficial to your goal attainment. Sometimes, establishing an origin is difficult and/or impossible to achieve and that is ok, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

The key is to attempt to assess the origin. Sometimes the root of the problem or not knowing the root can hinder growth or progression towards goal attainment. In theraputic practice, this is known as a psychodynamic approach. If you are able to find an origin or contributor of behavior, it’s important not to identify origin of behavior as an excuse but to better understand where that behavior comes from so you can begin to work on tackling the behavior and the origin to assist with permanent results.

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Another part of the assessment stage is to understand and assess your why! Why do you want or need this change? Determining your why will assist in keep you motivated towards change.

3. Accountability

Stay accountable! One way to keep yourself accountable towards your resolutions and goals are to write them down. Write your goals down some place you can see them every day. I like to carry around a notebook that are designated towards my catergorized goals. My goals range from financial goals, personal goals, and business related goals. Each month I re-assess my goals to ensure that the goals I made in January of a new year don’t end up transfering over into other months or worse, years!

Another way to hold yourself accountable is to tell someone. Your close friends and family can’t hold you accountable towards your goals if you don’t tell them. Having a supportive environment is helpful when attempting to make change.

4. Activation

In the activation step you are taking action. Activate measurable actions towards change.

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For example, your New Year’s resolution may be to “be more organized in the mornings.” Some action steps you may activate include going to bed earlier, making the bed in the morning, and planning and prepping meals or outfits before bed.

The activation stage should feel like homework. This is a cognitive behavioral approach in which you implement or activate measurable steps towards change. These are all measurable action steps that you can activate to establish adequate change in habits that will ultimately assist with your goal attainment.

5. Analyze

Once you have activated measurable goals the next step is to analyze. Is everything in your activation step assisting with attaining your ultimate goal: “to be more organized in the mornings”?

If you ask any business owner or entreprenuer, analyzing results and outcome measures is key towards success. If you don’t assess analytics within your own goals it will be difficult to determine if adequate change has actually been made. Ask yourself, are there some additional action steps that need to be activated in order to truly attain change? Am I being held accountable? Could I be doing more?

6. Attain

Lastly, attain! Ensure that you are not only obtaining the necessary activation steps but that you have attained your initial goal successfully. If you need to go back to step 5, that is ok. In this step, you have established adequate change and are sure that you have attained your goal(s).

So, there you have it, The 6 A’s of Change: Awareness, Assessment, Accountablity, Activation, Analyze, and Attain! Don’t be afraid of change! There is often a negative connotation that comes with the thought of change. However, change is truly the only thing in this world that remains constant. Let’s make 2017 the year we actually keep our New Year resolutions. Always remember, “Change begins in your mind.”

More by this author

Iris Mendez

Certfied Wellness Coach & Mental Health Professional

New Year Resolution Solution: The 6 A’s of Change

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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