Stop Trying To Fix Outcomes, Start Solving Problems.

In 10 seconds, name 3 of the world’s biggest problems.

10… 9…8…7.. .6… 5…4…3…2…1

Done? Great.

Now let me channel my mind-reading skills and guess some of the problems you might have said.

  1. Climate Change
  2. Poverty
  3. Gender Inequality
  4. Unemployment
  5. Malnourishment
  6. War + Conflict

How did I do?

Chances are the 3 problems you listed are either on that list or fit the commonality between them.

You’re probably wondering what that common feature is exactly. They’re all global problems that need to be addressed. But what most people miss is the fact that these aren’t problems, they’re outcomes.

A problem is something that has a direct solution. It’s specific.

Outcomes are broader and form due to a combination of different problems.

Well, that’s great, not super helpful, but it’s interesting information.

Nope, wrong.

Changing your outlook on what’s a problem vs what’s an outcome will change the way you think, the way you form your goals and how you create solutions.

When people look at outcomes as problems, they seem unsolvable. Solving climate change, for example, seems impossible. But when you ask yourself “why does climate change exist?”, all the problems causing the climate to change become clear. For example, ruminant livestock is producing 250 to 500 L of methane per day. With that specific statement, working on solving climate change seems a lot more feasible.

You can actually see the next steps you can take to further understand the problem and develop a solution.

This also applies to personal life.

January is the time where a lot of people will get a gym membership. February is the time where a lot of people will cancel their gym membership.

The problem you face every year isn’t that you hate working out. That’s not something you can directly fix because it lacks specificity.

It’s probably something to do with you having unrealistic expectations for results. Maybe you’re uncomfortable working out in front of other people and would rather do it at home. You might not be doing the right kinds of workouts for your preferences and goals.

Identifying the more specific problem with why your resolutions don’t go the way you planned creates a very clear path towards a solution. Now you know you need to reframe your thinking, invest in at home gym equipment instead of a gym membership and figure out the best workouts for you to be doing.

This way of thinking has helped me identify root causes to world problems like climate change or the water crisis. But it’s also helped me improve my mindsets and habits.

The best way to know if you’ve gotten specific enough is if you can no longer ask yourself why and you can see a clear path to a solution.

TL;DR:

  • Outcomes are broad, problems are specific.
  • To go from an outcome to a problem, ask yourself why.
  • Completely understanding the problem is the same thing as knowing the solution.
  • If it feels impossible to solve you haven’t gotten specific enough.

Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you found it interesting.

My original inspiration from this thought was from first principals thinking and was further developed by reading 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think.

If you enjoyed this blog be sure to follow me on Medium and subscribe to my newsletter for more thoughts and reflections!

-Nyla 👋

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