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Five Ways to See a Problem in a New Light

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

It’s easy to get stuck inside of a problem as if we’re in a corn maze. No matter which way we turn to try to find our way out, we face another uncertain path that looks exactly like every other one we’ve seen since we entered the challenge.

If you’ve been struggling with a problem and are having trouble conjuring up solutions, it can help to try to see the problem in a new light. Here are five ways to jumpstart your brain into a new way of viewing things:

  • Find a new interpretation. Seek out someone you trust but who always approaches things differently from you. If you tend to disagree on how to solve the world’s problems but you still get along famously, this is the right person to seek out. Tell the person what you’re going through and then listen to the problem through his or her perspective. This can help you develop insight and initiate change.
  • Watch a model. No, I don’t mean a supermodel (unless your problem actually pertains to this profession). What I’m suggesting is to find an expert in your topic of concern – in your community or even on YouTube – and watch the person demonstrating successful performance of the skill you’d like to master in order to solve your problem.
  • Gradually expose yourself to the situation. If your problem involves facing a situation you fear, try exposing yourself to the situation in baby steps. For instance, if you’re nervous about giving a presentation at work, start by imagining yourself giving a successful presentation. Once you can do that without breaking into a cold sweat, give the presentation to your dog, at home. Keep making the task more difficult until giving the presentation at work doesn’t seem so monumental.
  • Find your sense of humor. When we’re tense, we paralyze our ability to see a problem in a new way. But when we laugh, our whole mindset relaxes and we’re better able to think with flexibility. So find the humor in your situation, or if that’s not feasible, read or watch something that you find genuinely funny. You deserve a break, anyway.
  • Use different language. The language we use to describe a problem is more powerful than we sometimes realize. Pay attention to how you’re talking about the problem and see if the words are limiting you. For example, saying “I’m trapped” indicates that you have no choice in the matter. Changing your language to “I feel trapped” conveys a whole new spin on the problem. Now you have a choice.

If you try any of these methods to see your problem in a new light, come back and tell us about it! Also, what other methods do you use to solve a problem when you feel stuck?


Young, M. E. (2013). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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