Overcoming the dark side of being a problem solver

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Amiee Ball is the founder of JAB Advisory Group. She has trained more than 10,000 entrepreneurs and executives in how trust leads to results.

You know what’s hard? Be a problem solver. It sounds great in theory, right? Solve problems left and right, save the day, be the hero. But let me tell you, being a problem solver can also be your kryptonite.

As a problem solver, I have always believed that my greatest strength lies in my ability to identify and solve problems. But over time I’ve realized that my love of solving problems is not only a strength, but also my greatest weakness. The same analytical and critical thinking skills that have made me an excellent problem solver also predispose me to overthinking and overanalyzing situations, leading to unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Trouble goblins (as I like to call them) often sneak up on us without realizing it. Do you too? Maybe you’re the vacation planner who thinks about all the possible problems that could arise, such as flight delays or a hotel that doesn’t measure up. While it’s good to be prepared, it can also lead to unnecessary stress and worry, especially if these issues never come to fruition. Or maybe as an entrepreneur you are always looking for ways to improve processes and workflows. While this is an essential part of running a business, it can also lead to overthinking and micromanaging. If you’re not careful, you can quickly create problems that don’t exist, leading to confusion and frustration within the team.

The truth is that harnessing the superpower of problem solving can be like wielding a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is an essential skill that allows us to navigate life’s challenges and find solutions to complex problems. On the other hand, if taken too far, it can lead to overthinking, anxiety, and a lack of confidence in ourselves and others. When we are used to taking charge and finding solutions to challenges, we easily become critical of others and their ability to solve problems. We start to believe that we are the only ones who can solve the problem effectively, while everyone else is incompetent.

This lack of confidence also extends to ourselves. Constantly anticipating problems and thinking through every situation forces us to question our abilities and decisions. We become paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision or taking the wrong action, leading to procrastination, analysis paralysis, and missed opportunities.

So how can we solve this problem of a troubleshooter? How do we keep our superpowers from turning into weaknesses? In my experience, it’s all about trust: trusting your team, trusting your own abilities, and trusting that not every problem needs to be solved right now. Sometimes problems solve themselves if you give them time.

With that in mind, here are a few tips I share with clients to balance problem solving with realistic thinking.

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1. Focus on what you can control.

Troubleshooters easily get caught up in the potential problems that can arise. Instead, focus on what you can control. Identify the things within your power to change and work on those first.

2. Avoid catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing is when you imagine the worst case scenario for a situation. While it’s good to be prepared, it’s also important to avoid disasters. Don’t spend all your time worrying about the worst possible outcome. Instead, focus on the most likely outcome and plan accordingly.

3. Use positive visualization.

Positive visualization is a powerful strategy that can help you overcome negative thinking. If you feel anxious or stressed, take a moment to visualize a positive outcome. This can help shift your mindset from negative to positive. Instead of saying “What’s happening?” ask yourself, “What if that doesn’t happen?”

4. Be aware of your own behavior.

Self awareness is “the ability to look within, think deeply about your behavior, and think about how it aligns with your moral standards.” Self-aware individuals understand their strengths and challenges and know what helps them thrive.

While problem solving is a valuable skill for success and recognition, it can also generally become a source of stress and burnout when used to the maximum. It’s important to recognize the signs that your strengths are becoming weaknesses and take action to prevent this from happening. Trusting others and delegating tasks can ease some of the burden of problem solving, while setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care can help keep you from becoming a victim of your own success.

Remember, if creating problems that don’t exist were a superpower, there wouldn’t be one superhero in town. But in reality it is a hindrance to progress and success. By learning to balance your problem-solving skills with self-awareness and trust in others, you can truly become unstoppable in achieving your goals and making a positive impact on the world.


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