What I’ve Learned: How to Work on Your Problems

The other day I was helping my daughter organize her jewelry box.  My job was to untangle a clump of six or seven necklaces that had gotten jumbled together.  Not a fun job, for sure, but I was able to separate them.
I laid out the clump as flat as I could on a clipboard that was on my lap.  After noting where the tightest and most twisted places were, I took two straight pins and began prodding those tough parts.  I did this to test just how knotted they were as well as to see if there were any weak places in hopes that I could unravel the jumble at the core.  The knot felt solid.  I tried loosening the necklaces at the edges but they were too firmly scrambled together. 
The likelihood of untangling the necklaces seemed slim.  My daughter and I talked about it and agreed that in the worst-case scenario, we could always cut the pendants off their necklaces and buy new chains.   
With the parameters of the problem in place–best case scenario:  all the necklaces would be separated and whole; worst-case scenario:  we’d save the pendants but cut the chains, perhaps destroying them in the process–I accepted the challenge and got to work! 
Using the two straight pins, I attacked the clump on the edges to see if I could loosen it, even just a little.  When it seemed as if there was a tiny bit of give, I would then see if I could get a little ease in the center of the knot.   
Gradually, I made progress.  It was in small increments, for sure, but I was making headway! 
Eventually, I had untwisted enough of the outer edges and had worked enough spaces into the knot that all of a sudden it came undone!  Our best-case scenario came true!  WooHoo! 
We celebrated by my daughter wearing one of the necklaces when we treated ourselves to ice cream sundaes at the local ice cream shop! 
This got me to thinking…. 
The method I used for unscrambling the necklaces can be applied to solving tough problems and difficulties.  It can be summed up with a checklist: 
First:  lay out the problem in a way that you can see what you’re dealing with
Second:  come up with a strategy and gather the necessary tools, information, skills, etc.
Third:  make your first “attack” right at the core to see if it’ll give immediately.
Fourth:  evaluate what happened in step #3
Fifth:  establish the parameters/boundaries of the situation:  best-case and worst-case scenarios
Sixth:   try something at the edges of the situation to see if you can loosen things a bit
Seven:  when you do get a little ease, go to the center and see if you can work that ease from the edges into the core.
Eighth:  evaluate periodically to determine if you need to bring in more resources:  skills and abilities, specialized tools and knowledge, etc.
Ninth:  keep repeating steps six seven and eight, tweaking your tactics as needed until you achieve success
Ten:  Celebrate!  Make sure you follow through with this step!
Eleven–Bonus Step:  Move forward; take the next step! 
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=34145&picture=strawberry-ice-cream
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=34145&picture=strawberry-ice-cream

Your homework is to apply this checklist to any problem, challenge, difficulty, snag, etc., that’s stopping you–or slowing you down.  Make sure you follow through on steps ten and eleven! 

You can do it, I know you can!
I’m so proud of you! 
Your Friend and Pep Pal,
Lauren
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