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One simple secret to success in 2017

One simple secret to success in 2017

Today you will learn what successful people like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss do instead of making New Year’s resolutions to kickstart their new year.

A lot of people have already failed their New Year’s resolutions by now, and there are many reasons why. Do you know what the best predictor of future behavior in sales marketing is? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not your desires, hobbies, or needs. It’s your past behavior. The interesting part is that this applies to many more areas in life than your consumer habits. For someone that promotes change (like me) that can be a bit demotivating. But does that mean we’re all doomed for rest of our lives like in Groundhog Day? I don’t think so. It simply means that real and lasting change may not occur over night.

I like to look at people that already accomplished what I want to do. Tim Ferriss and Anthony Robbins share one common practice at the end of each year. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, they review their past year. I kind of like the idea of doing the opposite of the mainstream (I’m a rebel, I know), and thought why not give it a try? So, I took a step back and reviewed my 2016. Here’s what happened:

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Enter the fitness world

I started to work part-time as a trainer at a gym called West Side Fitness. After getting my certification as a strength coach back in 2012, I put the project aside. Fear of failure was probably one of the reasons. I was training friends tough during that period. After 3 years I felt the urge to set my foot in the fitness industry. I applied, got hired, and started to train clients. A life changing decision. More on that later.

Moving in with my girlfriend

My parents moved to Italy due to retirement (we were living together in Zurich, Switzerland), and my girlfriend and I moved together. Another life changing decision, and we’re still together (*victory*). I was a very selfish person when Sara and I met more than 3 years ago. Focusing entirely on me was kind of a normal state back then, and unfortunately, the feeling of emptiness, too. Sara taught me many lessons, such as the pleasure of sharing, giving, and basically not being the center of the world (all the time). I’ve learned and matured a lot since then, something I can’t thank her enough for. The good became better and the bad became… well, better too. I’ve still got a lot of work in front of me; but hey, I’m on my way.

My boss fired me

I was working part-time as a secretary at an accounting office (while going to university and working at the gym). I absolutely hated the job. Why did I stay there for 3 years? Because I could print all of my university stuff there (more than 200 pages per month) and ask them about matters regarding admin and taxes. Weak reasons, I know. While being there, I did what I needed to do. Not more, not less. They fired me because of the lack of motivation. My boss did me a HUGE favor. I sleep better now, and have more energy for stuff that matters, such as:

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Graduating in psychology

After 3 years of studying, I got my bachelor’s degree last summer. It was a wonderful time, during which I met amazing people and learned things not only related to my work today, but also for life. The decision not to follow with a master’s degree was a tough one, but also an important one, because it let me to the following:

Being broke and creating Muscle & Mind

Managing money was never one of my fortes. Being fired at the accounting office and not having much time outside finishing my studies and working as a trainer led me to a “financially restrictive phase.” I was broke; some students can probably relate to that. Honestly, I created Muscle & Mind out of anger, frustration, and the wish to conquer the world. At the beginning I had no clue about marketing, sales funnels, and product for prospects. I only knew that I needed a change in my life.

An amazing journey began, and with it an emotional rollercoaster. After a lot of research and procrastination, I got a running website, social media presence, and most importantly, I started to write. Becoming independent was without a doubt the most difficult decision I’ve made for years. I was scared (and still am sometimes), and doubted whether I could pull it off or not. But here I am today. Coaching clients and writing an article for one of the biggest lifestyle and productivity blogs in the world. Something I could never have imagined 7 or 8 months ago.

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“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” -Steve Jobs

Am I running a million-dollar business? Is my inbox flooded with coaching requests? No, but who knows what is going to happen in the next 7, 12, or 24 months?

Torn pectoral muscle

I torn my pec last November, and it sucks. Any kind of pressing movements are out of sight for a while. But life goes on. I’m seeing a specialist soon, and will go through rehab. Meanwhile, I’ve got more time for Sara, Muscle & Mind, squats, and deadlifts.

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Meeting one of the strongest guys in Switzerland

Daniele Pauli is strong – REALLY strong. He competes in powerlifting. His current total: 760kg (1672 pounds), 270kg (594 pounds) squats, 180kg (396 pounds) bench press, and 310kg (682) deadlift. (Sorry Daniele, if the numbers are outdated). I met him at West Side Fitness, where he occasionally trains and coaches clients. He’s the best personal trainer I know, and simply an amazing human being. He taught me so many things inside, and especially outside, the gym. Thank you, Daniele.

All in all, 2016 has been a hell of a ride for me. Big changes, and most of them were good. Some things stayed the same. I still got a lot of work in front of me, but that doesn’t worry me; actually, I’m really looking forward to it.

Reviewing your last year can be a powerful practice if you want to make 2017 a huge success. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future. And understanding where you’re coming from can be a big help in deciding where you want to go. 2017 is still fresh, but sooner than you might think you will be reviewing this year. So, take a step back, look at what happened, find out what worked and what hasn’t, change strategies where needed, and last but not least, to end with Dan Pena’s words: Just F***ing do it!

Featured photo credit: Getty Images via huffingtonpost.com

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Roberto Corbacio

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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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