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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

A Results Mentality

Most people tend to think that obstacles define themselves, and it is exploring the consequences and identifying workable solutions that should be the main focus of one's solution efforts. To a large extent this is quite true. However - what is suggested - is that a more detailed and systematic interrogation of the obstacleI.e. the problem, issue or wicked challenge one is confronted with. - than is usually the case - should be undertaken by identifying the differences or gap between the current situation and the desired or expected situation. The goal being to eliminateTo close the gap, as soon as and effectively as is humanly possible. the differences, by describing the context of the obstacle as follows…

  1. What is the key (i.e. basic or source) obstacle that you are trying to address and solve …and why is it important to do so?
  2. Who is it an obstacle for… you and/or other people? What is to be gained and/or lost from solving it… not solving it?
  3. What factorsE.g. social, cultural, economic, political, economic, education, training, …etc. influences. shape, define and depict this obstacle?
  4. What evidence or facts do you have, indicating that addressing the obstacle…
    • is worth the effort?I.e. investing energy, time money and resources.
    • isn't worth the effort?

1. Defining the Obstacle

Albert Einstein once said: “When, I am given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes resolving it!” This may sound extreme, but it does highlight the importance of defining obstacles properly. It also hints at some other interesting implications…

  • A well-defined problem often contains its own solution within it and
  • that a solution is usually quite obvious and straightforward, once a problem is well defined.

By defining obstacles as thoroughly as possible - more often than not - it becomes much easier to address and solve it, which - by implication - saves time, effort, money and resources. To accurately define an obstacle or challenge, use and apply the following guidelines and techniques…

1.1. Approach it with "fresh" eyes

  • Rephrase the problem statement: When an executive asked employees to brainstorm and suggest ”ways to increase their productivity“, all he received back were blank stares. When he rephrased his request (i.e. the problem statement) as ”ways to make their jobs easier“, he could barely keep up with the amount of suggestions offered. Words carry strong implicit meanings and - as such - play a major role in how we tend to perceive an obstacle. In the example… 'being productive' might seem for most employees like a sacrifice that they have to make for the company, while 'making your job easier' may seem to be more like something they’re doing for their own benefit, but from which the company also benefits. In the end, the obstacle is still the same, but the feelings - and the points of view - associated with each of them are vastly different. Play around with the problem statement, rewording it several times. For a systematic approach, take single words and substitute it with variations. 'How can you improve your marks at school?', try replacing 'improve' with 'better', 'boost', 'enhance', 'increase', 'lift', 'raise', 'revamp', 'revise' and notice how your perception of the problem statement changes. A rich vocabulary is quite important here, so it is strongly suggested to make use of a thesaurus and/or expand your current vocabulary in different languages… when you speak more than one language.
  • Expose and challenge assumptions. Every problem - no matter how apparently simple it may be - comes with a long list of assumptions attached to it. Many of these assumptions may be inaccurate and could make your problem statement inadequate or even misguided. The first step - to get rid of derailing assumptions - is to make them explicit. Compile a list and expose as many assumptions as you possibly can, especially those that may seem the most obvious and ‘untouchable’. That, in itself, brings more clarity to the problem at hand. But go further and test each assumption for its validity… think in ways that they might not be valid any longer or isn't relevant for this particular context. What you will find may surprise you… many of those assumptions are self-imposed, and with just a bit of scrutiny, you are able to safely discard them. For example… suppose you’re about to enter the restaurant business. One of your assumptions might be ‘restaurants must have a menu’. While such an assumption may seem true at first, try challenging it and maybe you’ll find some very interesting alternative business models… such as - for example - a restaurant in which customers bring dish ideas for the chef to cook or a restaurant serving only buffets.
  • Don't get stuck in your own frame of reference. Don't exclusively rely on your own understanding. Mentally, select several mentors, whom you intuitively feel would solve the obstacle or - at least - mitigate its effects… or just make you feel better.
    1. First… think of how they would probably tackle the issue on their own, had they encountered it.
    2. Second… think of how they might advise you, had you asked them for advice.
    3. Third… work from these understandings and insight to define and tailor your own solutions, possibilities and/or alternatives.

1.2. Breaking it down

  • Chunk up. Each problem is a small piece of a greater problem. In the same way that you can explore a problem laterally — such as by playing with words or challenging assumptions — you can also explore it at different “altitudes”. If you feel you’re overwhelmed with details or looking at a problem too narrowly, look at it from a more general perspective. In order to make your problem more general, ask questions such as: “What’s this a part of?”, “What’s this an example of?” or “What’s the intention behind this?”. Another approach that helps a lot in getting a more general view of a problem is replacing words in the problem statement with hypernyms. Hypernyms are words that have a broader meaning than the given word. (For example, a hypernym of ‘car’ is ‘vehicle’). A great, free tool for finding hypernyms for a given word is WordNet (just search for a word and click on the ‘S:’ label before the word definitions). A good question worth asking is whether the “problem” you're defining is really just a symptom of a deeper problem. For example, a high heating bill might be the “problem” and an obvious solution would be to check to see if your heating system is broken, or needs updating for better efficiency. But maybe the bigger problem is that the people in your house use heat wastefully—and might that be? Because they don't perceive the negative consequences; they don't have to pay the bill themselves, perhaps, so they're not conscious of how wasting heat will affect them.
  • Chunk down. If each problem is part of a greater problem, it also means that each problem is composed of many smaller problems. It turns out that decomposing a problem in many smaller problems — each of them more specific than the original — can also provide greater insights about it. ‘Chunking the problem down’ (making it more specific) is especially useful if you find the problem overwhelming or daunting. Some of the typical questions you can ask to make a problem more specific are: “What are parts of this?” or “What are examples of this?”. Just as in ‘chunking up’, word substitution can also come to great use here. The class of words that are useful here are hyponyms: words that are stricter in meaning than the given one. (E.g. two hyponyms of ‘car’ are ‘minivan’ and ‘limousine’). WordNet can also help you finding hyponyms.

1.3. Changing perspectives

  • Find multiple perspectives. Before rushing to solve a problem, always make sure you look at it from different perspectives. Looking at it with different eyes is a great way to have instant insight on new, overlooked directions. For example, if you own a business and are trying to ‘increase sales’, try to view this problem from the point of view of, say, a customer. For example, from the customer’s viewpoint, this may be a matter of adding features to your product that one would be willing to pay more for. Rewrite your problem statement many times, each time using one of these different perspectives. How would your competition see this problem? Your employees? Your mom? Also, imagine how people in various roles would frame the problem. How would a politician see it? A college professor? A nun? Try to find the differences and similarities on how the different roles would deal with your problem.
  • Use effective language constructs. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for properly crafting the perfect problem statement, but there are some language constructs that always help making it more effective: Assume a myriad of solutions. An excellent way to start a problem statement is: “In what ways might I…”. This expression is much superior to “How can I…” as it hints that there’s a multitude of solutions, and not just one — or maybe none. As simple as this sounds, the feeling of expectancy helps your brain find solutions. Make it positive. Negative sentences require a lot more cognitive power to process and may slow you down — or even derail your train of thought. Positive statements also help you find the real goal behind the problem and, as such, are much more motivating. For example: instead of finding ways to ‘quit smoking’, you may find that ‘increase your energy’, ‘live longer’ and others are much more worthwhile goals.Frame your problem in the form of a question. Our brain loves questions. If the question is powerful and engaging, our brains will do everything within their reach to answer it. We just can’t help it: Our brains will start working on the problem immediately and keep working in the background, even when we’re not aware of it. If you’re still stuck, consider using the following formula for phrasing your problem statement: “In what ways (action) (object) (qualifier) (end result)?” Example: In what ways might I package (action) my book (object) more attractively (qualifier) so people will buy more of it (end result)?
  • Make it engaging. In addition to using effective language constructs, it’s important to come up with a problem statement that truly excites you so you’re in the best frame of mind for creatively tackling the problem. If the problem looks too dull for you, invest the time adding vigor to it while still keeping it genuine. Make it enticing. Your brain will thank (and reward) you later. One thing is to ‘increase sales’ (boring), another one is ‘wow your customers’. One thing is ‘to create a personal development blog’, another completely different is to ‘empower readers to live fully’.
  • Reverse the problem. One trick that usually helps when you’re stuck with a problem is turning it on its head. If you want to win, find out what would make you lose. If you are struggling finding ways to ‘increase sales’, find ways to decrease them instead. Then, all you need to do is reverse your answers. 'Make more sales calls’ may seem an evident way of increasing sales, but sometimes we only see these ‘obvious’ answers when we look at the problem from an opposite direction. This seemingly convoluted method may not seem intuitive at first, but turning a problem on its head can uncover rather obvious solutions to the original problem.

1.4. Going on a fact-finding mission

  • Gather facts. Investigate causes and circumstances of the problem. Probe details about it — such as its origins and causes. Especially if you have a problem that’s too vague, investigating facts is usually more productive than trying to solve it right away. If, for example, the problem stated by your spouse is “You never listen to me”, the solution is not obvious. However, if the statement is “You don’t make enough eye contact when I’m talking to you,” then the solution is obvious and you can skip brainstorming altogether. (You’ll still need to work on the implementation, though!) Ask yourself questions about the problem. What is not known about it? When did it last work correctly? Can you draw a diagram of the problem? What are the problem boundaries? Be curious. Ask questions and gather facts. It is said that a well-defined problem is halfway to being solved: you could add that a perfectly-defined problem is not even a problem anymore!
  • Research
  • Explore

2. How to Solve a Problem

How you deal with challenges will often determine your success and happiness. If you’re stuck on how to solve a problem, try defining it and breaking it into smaller pieces. Choose whether to approach the problem logically or whether you should think about how the outcome might make you feel. Find ways to creatively approach your problems by working with other people and approaching the problem from a different perspective.

2.1. Approaching the Problem

  • Define the problem. Find the real problem, not just the symptoms that result from the problem. When defining the problem, do not consider things that are extraneous matters, only what the actual problem is. You can consider the other issues later. Become familiar with the problem and understand it fully. For example, if your room is constantly messy, the problem might not be that you’re a messy person. It might be that you lack containers or places to put your items in an organized way. Try to be as clear and thorough as possible when defining the problem. If it is a personal issue, be honest with yourself as to the causes of the problem. If it is a logistics problem, determine exactly where and when the problem occurs. Determine whether the problem is real or self-created. Do you need to solve this problem or is this about something you want? Putting things in perspective can help you navigate the problem-solving process.
  • Make important decisions first. Recognize the decisions you need to make and how they will contribute to solving your problem. Making decisions can help you move forward in solving your problems, so start by deciding on what to focus on, what needs to get done, and how you will go about doing it. For example, you might have several problems to solve and need to decide which ones to tackle first. Solving one problem may ease tension or take stress off of another problem. Once you make a decision, don’t doubt yourself. Be willing to look forward from that point on without wondering what would have happened had you chosen something else.
  • Simplify the problem. An overly-complicated problem can feel overwhelming and be difficult to solve. If there are multiple problems, break them down into smaller parts and deal with them individually. If you can break the problem down into the smallest terms, this will help you in understanding it and finding a solution. For example, if you need to turn in many assignments to pass a class, focus on how many you have to do and approach them one by one. Try to combine and solve problems together whenever possible. For example, if you're running out of time to study, try listening to a recorded lecture while walking to class or flip through note cards as you're waiting for dinner.
  • Outline what you know and don't know. Familiarize yourself with the knowledge and information you already have. Then, seek out what you need. Inform yourself of all possible information, then organize it in a meaningful way. For example, if you’re trying to pass a cumulative test, figure out what you already know and what you need to study for. Review everything you already know, then start learning more information from your notes, textbook, or other resources that may help you.
  • Anticipate future outcomes. Come up with a Plan B (or more) so you’re not locked into one solution. Once you’ve come up with possible solutions, think about how each one would play out. Consider possible outcomes and how they would affect you and those around you. Create a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario in your imagination. Pay attention to know these scenarios make you feel.
  • Allocate your resources. Your resources may include time, money, effort, travel, etc. If solving the problem is a top priority, you may need to allocate more resources toward solving the problem than you otherwise would. Think about what resources you have that you can give toward solving your problem. For example, if you have a deadline, you may skip cooking dinner or going to the gym so that you can give that time to your project. Cut down on unnecessary tasks whenever possible. For example, you might get your groceries delivered to you to save on shopping time. You can spend that time instead on other tasks.

2.2. Taking a Creative Approach

  • Brainstorm different solutions. Think of different ways to solve your problem. Knowing that there is more than one way to approach the problem can help you realize that you have choices. Once you’ve thought of some alternatives, decide which ones are plausible and which ones you can forget about. If you’re making a complex decision, write down your alternatives. This way, you won’t forget any options and will be able to cross off any that aren’t plausible. For example, you might be hungry and need something to eat. Think about whether you want to cook food, get fast food, order takeout, or sit down at a restaurant.
  • Try different approaches to a problem. If you’re solving a straightforward problem, then analytical or logical skills will aid you best. Other times, you may need to rely on your emotions to guide you. Often, problems require a combination of thinking skills, your feelings, and maybe even your gut to come to a solution. Don't be afraid to utilize these ways of approaching problems, but play around with them and see what works best for you. Problems like accepting the job across the country that offers good pay but takes you away from your family may require different ways of approach. Consider the logical solution, but also consider your thoughts, feelings, and the way the decision affects others.
  • Get advice from others. If your problem is not immediate, ask advice from other people. Maybe you know someone who has faced a similar problem in the past who can weigh in and give you some feedback. Whether you follow their advice or not is up to you, however, it can be helpful to gain some different perspective. For example, if you’re buying a home and not sure how to make your final decision, talk to other homeowners about their thoughts or regrets about buying a home.
  • Monitor your progress. If you’re working toward a goal, notice how things are coming along. If you’re making progress and going in a positive direction, keep going. If you’re realizing your approach isn’t the best, then think about solving the problem in a different way. You may need to come up with some new strategies to better solve your problem. For example, if you’re having financial difficulties, notice how your efforts are affecting the money coming in and the money you’re spending. If keeping a budget helps, keep with it. If using cash exclusively is a headache, try something else. Keep a journal where you record your progress, successes, and challenges. You can look at this for motivation when you are feeling discouraged.

2.3. Managing Your Emotions While Confronting Difficulties

  • Calm your emotions. Making a decision or solving a problem can be difficult if you feel anxious or nervous about how it will go. If your fear is clouding your ability to solve a problem, take a moment to feel calm. take a deep breath so that you feel centered and relaxed before moving forward with the problem. You can also take a walk or write in a journal. The goal is to lessen your fear and increase your sense of calm. The first step is often the scariest. Try doing something small to start. For example, if you're trying to become more active, start going for daily walks.
  • Address any underlying problems. An obvious problem might have some underlying problems that would be better to resolve. If you’ve solved a similar problem like the current one in the past yet it keeps coming up, explore whether there may be some underlying causes. You may be able to solve a problem for good. For example, if you’re overwhelmed by having a long to-do list, maybe the problems isn’t the list, but not saying “no” to things you can’t do. If you're feeling stressed, angry, or overwhelmed, you may be burned out. Make a list of things that cause stress or frustration. Try to cut down on these in the future. If you start feeling overwhelmed again, it may be a sign that you need to cut back.
  • Work with a coach/mentor. if you find yourself constantly struggling to make decisions or doubting yourself after you solve a problem, you might benefit from working with a mental health professional. You might struggle with low self-esteem, which can make you doubt yourself or feel defeated. Your therapist can provide insight and challenge you to see yourself in a more positive and realistic way. Find a therapist by calling your local mental health clinic or your insurance provider. You can also get a recommendation from a physician or friend.

3. How to Be Creative

Creativity is a skill that you can work on with time, training, and effort. There are many areas you can focus on to improve your overall creativity. Engage in creative exercises like reading, writing, and listening to music to sharpen your creativity. Learn as much as possible and open yourself up to new ideas and experiences. Make lifestyle changes like walking more, exercising regularly, and getting more sleep to give your brain the boost it needs to increase your creative skills.

3.1. Challenging Yourself with Creative Exercises

  • Do the 30 circle test. You can do this test during dull moments at work. It helps you push yourself to think quickly and creatively. To start, draw 30 circles. From there, make as many circles into drawings as possible in one minute. You can do the test over and over again, trying to break your record each time. The 30 Circle Test helps boost creativity because it forces you to embrace multiple ideas. Many people have a tendency to self-edit and pause to wonder if something is a good idea. The 30 Circle Test forces you to think fast, forcing you to experiment with ideas without rejecting them.
  • Doodle in your spare time. Doodling is sometimes thought of as a childish pastime, but it can actually help increase productivity. This can increase creativity by increasing your engagement with the world and attention span. Doodling helps you stay engaged during activities where you would otherwise zone out. The more information you're able to absorb, the more creative you will be. Doodle during activities where you feel your mind wandering. For example, if you find yourself drifting out of focus during a meeting at work, do some doodling. You can also doodle in school during boring lectures. Try keeping a sketchbook where you doodle when you start to feel bored or disengaged.
  • Write flash fiction. Flash fiction means very short stories, often no more than 100 words. Writing a flash fiction story will help you become more creative as you'll be forced to tell a fleshed out story with a beginning, middle, and end using only a small number of words. This will help you learn how to convey necessary information in a limited space. There are many flash fiction writing communities online. Try getting involved with a flash fiction writing community and responding to prompts and participating in contests.
  • Listen to music. Simply playing music in the background can inspire you creatively. It can help you focus better and increase your overall concentration. Classical music tends to work particularly well for creativity and concentration. Not every genre of music works for everyone. While classical music has beneficial effects for many, experiment a little to find the music that bests helps you concentrate and feel creative.
  • Make something with your hands. Using your hands to create means you get information from all of your senses. This can help encourage more creative thinking. If you want to feel more creative, try activities in which you create using your hands. For example, try something like knitting, sewing, or other crafts to bolster your creativity.
  • Play video games. Some video games are actually good for the creative mind. Interactive games that require movement as these stimulate multiple senses help with creative thinking. Things like Wii Tennis or Dance Dance Revolution would work well. Avoid games that require you to sit for long periods.
  • Read more. Reading is great for your creative mind. Make a habit of reading regularly. Pick books from multiple genres and styles of writing to expand your horizons and really bolster your creativity. Try to make time to read every day. Try joining a book club. This will help direct your reading if you're unsure what kinds of books to start with. Get a library card. This will help you save some money on books.

3.2. Broadening Your Knowledge

  • Develop your expertise. Part of being creative is gaining expertise in one area or medium and learning as much as you can about it. Begin by reading articles and watching videos on the subject to gather more information about it. If possible, sign up for an introductory course at a local college or community centre (e.g. a beginner painting class). Inspire yourself by experiencing the creative works of others in a medium that interests you. For instance, if you are learning how to paint, visit a museum or art gallery.
  • Be open to new experiences. The most creative people are willing to engage with multiple ideas, broaden their horizons, and be surprised. Avoid resisting and dismissing things that are unfamiliar to you, and accept opportunities to try new creative endeavors. For instance, attempt a medium like clay sculpting even if you believe that you will dislike it or be bad at it.
  • Use play to foster creativity. Being more childlike can help your creative side by freeing you from adult hang ups for a while and opening your mind. Use toys and art supplies to stimulate your imagination and make new connections. If you're short on creative ideas, take the time to draw a whimsical picture or play with building blocks or legos.
  • Share and explain your knowledge. They say that you remember 90% of what you learned by teaching it to someone else. Explaining your newfound knowledge to yourself and others can help to cement it in your own mind. While you are learning something new, make a point of explaining it to yourself in your head. Picture yourself giving a TED talk or tutoring someone on the topic. If you feel particularly confident, make a video about the topic to post online, or explain your knowledge to a friend or colleague.
  • Prompt yourself to think of new ideas. Engage in activities that actively force you to think of new ideas. For instance, play word association games by writing down one word and then any words that connect to it. Use analogy to find similarities between two seemingly dissimilar things to break down and examine your associations with each. For instance, look for similarities between a textbook and an iPod. If you feel stuck, try some word association games or search for synonyms online.
  • Set aside time for brainstorming. Creativity takes practice, so set aside time each day to retreat to a quiet or inspiring place to generate new ideas. For instance, visit a quiet park or sit in a library and let your mind flow freely. Write all of your ideas (good or bad) in a notebook, on a whiteboard, or on your computer without stopping to edit or rethink them. Find a time that will work for you regularly. If you always have time after dinner, for example, take an hour after dinnertime to turn off distractions and engage with new ideas.

3.3. Changing Your Lifestyle

  • Socialize with different people. To give your creativity a jump-start, socialize as much as you can, particularly with people who are different from you. Spending time with people whose life experience and world view is unlike yours can expand your mind and offer fresh perspective on everyday things. To meet new people, attend events or do activities that are outside of your normal routine and engage in conversation whenever possible. For instance, if the art world is new to you, visit a gallery or museum and strike up a conversation with an artist or patron. Break the ice by saying something like, “I'm new to the art world. Is this a passion of yours?” Try varying your established routes to increase the chances you’ll meet new people.
  • Walk when possible. Walking can provide you time to think over ideas by allowing you to zone out and engage with creative thoughts. Walking will also allow you to engage with new surrounding or nature, both of which may inspire your creativity. Make a point of walking several times a week for at least fifteen minutes, or everyday if possible.
  • Exercise. Exercising regularly can boost creativity by reducing stress and improving cognitive function. Create an exercise regimen for yourself to follow, aiming for about 30 minutes of exercise a day. Choose light cardio exercise like walking, jogging, or bicycling.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep can help your mind stay rested and refreshed, leaving you creatively recharged. The brain is also very active during sleep, so “sleeping on a problem” may allow your mind to re-evaluate connections and formulate new ideas about an issue.[17]Strive to get a solid 8 to 9 hours sleep each night, and stay on a sleep schedule.
  • Nourishing diet.

4. How to Be Resourceful

Life doesn't always hand us solutions to go with the problems we encounter. If you're in a pinch, sometimes all you need is a bit of creativity to get through it. Being resourceful means solving problems with what you have and doing more with less. Here are a few general suggestions on how to be resourceful.

4.1. Developing Skills

  • Keep an open mind. Redefine what is and is not possible. You have unique talents that you can leverage to fulfill goals right now. Considering new possibilities is critical to taking action that will lead to success. Being open-minded means you are willing to find value in the people, events and things you come across. Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, views, suggestions and experiences. Recognize that you can learn from things that are new or different. When you can think outside of the box, you can come up with innovative solutions to problems that others can't. Say, “Yes, I can do this,” and push yourself to do what others might think is impossible. This is how people attain success when others give up on their dreams. Get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. If you have never been to a different country, tried a certain food, learned another language, tried to write a book or gone skydiving, then do it. You may discover something along the way that makes your life better and helps you solve a problem.
  • Be confident. You are capable of handling any problem. You already have everything you need to solve it—you! Recognizing that you are competent and adequate enough to do something is the first step to actually getting it done. Self-confidence means you like and trust yourself. Appreciate your talents, abilities and good attributes. Know that you can problem-solve and find solutions to challenges. Visualize being successful every day. When difficulties come your way, picture yourself overcoming them. Imagine accomplishing your goals and celebrating your successes. Accept compliments and praise. Know that you deserve them. Keep a diary of your successes. Write down your achievements every day. Soon you will fill the pages of this book and be able to see how much you have done. This will go a long way to help you realize you have earned the right to be confident.
  • Be creative. Resourcefulness is about optimizing what you have to work with. Creativity is not just about creating something new but making old things work better as well.[3] Think of crazy possibilities as well as practical ones. You might find inspiration for a workable solution in one of your ideas. Think about how an experienced mechanic can do amazing things with after-market parts and a little ingenuity. The mechanic probably won’t follow a manual but can diagnose problems based on symptoms and decide what tools and materials they have on hand to fix the problem. Be like this mechanic in your situation. Let your mind wander. Don't stop yourself from thinking something because you think it is irrelevant. Often, your thoughts will move from one idea to another and then another. You may discover an Aha! moment or insight in one of these ideas.
  • Be proactive. Don’t put your dreams on hold because you’re waiting for the right resources or people to show up. If you let circumstances determine when and how you act, you will always settle for less. If an opportunity presents itself, do your best to take it. Don't overthink the opportunity or talk yourself out of it. Be more than an idle observer. Participate actively and get involved. Being proactive means taking initiative so you can be part of any solution. Don’t simply react to events, people, challenges and information. Engage and influence them so you can make real contributions to the situation.
  • Be persistent. If you stop trying before the problem is solved, then you haven't accomplished anything. Try again, a dozen or a hundred different ways, if that's what it takes. Don't give up. Think about what motivates you. Determine why you want to accomplish something and use that knowledge to drive you to finish. Develop discipline. Many things will get in the way of your goal. If you practice discipline and make it a habit to do what needs to get done despite obstacles, you will reach your goal. Never consider not succeeding right away as a failure – consider it practice, instead.
  • Be positive. There is almost always a solution to a problem. See the positive in every situation. Once you develop the right attitude, it is easier to find a solution. Think of all the times you dealt with a crisis or difficult situation and the success stories that arose from those rough times. Know that you can get through it. This is the attitude resourceful people have when trouble comes their way. Remember that each time you overcome a problem, you become a better and stronger person. Experiences teach us things that we can pass on to others who need encouragement. Improve yourself. Learn new things, and try to keep up with what is happening around you. Even when you become successful, learning continues and provides enrichment to your life. Learn to accept and encourage other people as well. Identify your challenges and fears so that you can work on improving or overcoming them. If you want to improve a skill (from getting better at math to becoming more assertive to learning to throw and catch a baseball), consider what concrete action you might take to grow in this area. You could take a class at a community college to get better at math, you might buy a book on how to be assertive, or you might work with a trainer or athletic friend to help you improve your game of catch.

4.2. Anticipating Problems

  • Be prepared. You can't anticipate everything, but you can predict many problems. The more you prepare ahead of time, the more resources you'll have when faced with a problem. Build a tool kit and learn to use it. The more tools you have to draw on when met with a challenge, the more resourceful you can be. Depending on where you spend your time, the tools at your disposal could take the form of a true tool kit, or they could go in a purse, a survival kit, a workshop, a kitchen, an equipment truck or even your selection of camping gear. Learn to use your tools. Then, make sure you have them with you when you need them. Practice at home. If you don't know how to change a tire, try it in your driveway before you get a flat miles away from home, in the dark, in the rain. Learn to pitch your tent in the back yard or take a short day hike to get used to your backpacking gear. Refine both your tool kit and your skills before you must put them to the test. Anticipate likely problems and deal with them before they become problems. If you worry that you might forget your keys and lock yourself out, hide a spare key in the backyard. Attach your keys to something large and visible so you don't lose them. Coordinate with others who are coming and going so you don't accidentally lock each other out. Practice being resourceful before the pressure is on. Try cooking a meal with whatever is on hand in the pantry rather than going out to the store. Invent what you need instead of buying it. Build or create your own, even if something is ready made and available.
  • Manage Your Time. Your life is made up of time, and time is a limited resource. If you have time, use it for something productive. Make each moment matter so that it contributes in some way to your end goals. Depending on the situation you need to overcome, you may need to work longer hours, ask for more time, enlist the time of others, or implement temporary measures while you can develop something more permanent. Minimize distractions and interruptions. If you can control the things that get in the way of your goal, limit them. There is a time for work and for play. Remember to do both and focus on what you are doing at the time. Don't take phone calls or chat while doing work. Turn off the TV. Likewise, don't let work stress seep into your time out with friends and family. Remember to be patient. Time is important but some things take time to happen as well. Ask the patience of others.
  • Communicate to others. Decide whether there is someone you could contact who might know the answer, be able to solve or lend a hand for a certain problem before it happens. Talk about possibilities ahead of time. Imagine scenarios with knowledgeable or experienced people and brainstorm solutions with limited resources. Human contacts can be collected as a resource in advance. Networking, formal or informal, is one way to create that collection of resources. If possible, offer others favors before you need to ask for any yourself. Engage with others and really get to know and help them when they need it. This will increase the chance that someone will be there for you.
  • Make money. Money can be a powerful asset in some situations. If you don't have money and you need it, being resourceful may consist of thinking of creative ways to raise or earn it. Also, consider solving the problem without money as well. Ask people for money. Offer to do something in return so that the money is earned. You can hold a fundraiser if you are seeking to raise money for a good cause. Get a job. Earning regular money is important to having a steady source of this resource. Look at the skills you have and see if you can apply them to any open positions in your area. Search online sites such as or LinkedIn for jobs that match your qualifications. Also, search your local newspaper's classified section for places that are hiring. If there is a certain position or company you want to work for, look at their website or go in and ask what open positions are available. Go back to school. This may be a longer route to obtaining money but if you're end goal is to earn a decent salary, then this may be the best option for you.

4.3. Assessing the Situation

  • Evaluate the situation. When a challenging situation comes your way, try to clarify and define the problem as best you can. It is easy to get overwhelmed by emotion, confabulate the problem and lose sight of solutions. When you can determine what the real issue is, you can come up with a plan to improve it. Think about the problem. How severe is it? Is this truly a crisis or merely an inconvenience or a setback? Does it need to be addressed immediately, or can it wait for an appropriate solution to be developed? The more urgent the situation, the more creative you'll have to be. Ask yourself what the nature of the problem is. What is really needed? For instance, do you need to unlock the door, or do you need to get in or out? These are two different problems, since the latter might be accomplished by passing through a window, by climbing over or under a wall, by going around the back way or by removing the hinge pins in the door. For that matter, do you need access at all, or could you get what you need somewhere else? Don't panic. Pressure may be a good motivator, but not if it's clouding your thinking. Think about why you can't just give up on this and that will give you the edge for the persistence you need to succeed. Finding a solution to the problem is better than worrying. This can be learned by training your mind to focus on solutions each time you start worrying. Calm yourself first, think clearly before taking any action.
  • Assess what is available to you. Being resourceful is, above all, about being clever and finding creative use of your current resources. Do you have access to, or could you obtain, anything that might help with the situation? Don't forget that resources aren't all objects—consider skills, people or emotional states as well. Try working backwards. Take stock of what you have available, including objects, resources, knowledge, people and opportunities. Then consider how you can apply it to the problem.
  • Set goals. Resourceful people seek challenges to overcome, goals to achieve and a dream to work toward. Meet small daily objectives that add up to your larger dream. Over time, you will get closer and closer to making your dream a reality. Keep in mind that every day is a chance for you to influence what you want your life to be. Remember to be happy with the life you have now and recognize your progress. Your life today is important because no one knows what might happen tomorrow. Keep one eye on your goals but enjoy the here and now. Start small. Everyone starts with something, no matter how small. Small results will grow with time and continued effort. If its money you need, save what is available now as often as you can. Even regular smaller contributions will make a big difference a year later. Follow through. You won’t know how it’s going to turn out unless you see it through to find out what the results will be.
  • Pick out specifics. Thinking about the big picture can give you perspective—but sometimes you need to focus on details or steps instead. Decide what you can do in the short term so you can take action and be more productive. Revise specific tasks, roles and responsibilities toward your goals, such as simplicity, savings or risks. Seek information. Has somebody solved a similar problem before? How does the thing (or system or situation) work that you are trying to deal with? Which way is home from here? Whom can you contact, and how? What steps do you need to take to build a fire? Researching and reading is very helpful. Keeping up with important events and information can help you in the future. Focus on something you find interesting or useful and look for different links that are related to the topic or idea so that you can master it. Mine your own resources. Know the difference between seeking resources and being resourceful. When the tools and resources you need are within your reach, things tend to work out. Being resourceful means you make the most of the resources you can find. Recognize that you don’t know it all. Be prepared to learn from others, even from someone you think wouldn’t know something you don’t.

4.4. Overcome Obstacles

  • Break the rules. Use things in unconventional ways or go against conventional wisdom or societal norms, if it will help. Be prepared to take responsibility, redress wrongs or explain yourself if you do overstep your bounds. Rules exist for a reason, but sometimes rules and tradition can hold back progress. Accomplish things, don’t just go along with how things have always been done. Never apologize for your success. The trick is to make sure that any infractions are insignificant compared to the benefit. There are going to be times when you should apologize, but do it only for true offenses.
  • Improvise. Don't box yourself into thinking a certain way. Use what you can for a temporary solution and then look for a permanent solution. Fix your bike just enough so you can get home and properly fix it later. Experiment. Trial and error might take a while, but if you have no experience with a particular situation, it's a very good way to begin. At the very least, you will learn what does not work. Adapt. Nothing is written in stone when it comes to solutions. Look at other examples to get inspiration but make your solution fit your particular situation. Turn challenges into advantages. Don't be afraid to use objects in unconventional ways. Wire coat hangers can be incredibly flexible and while screwdrivers aren't really intended for chiseling, prying, pounding, scraping, etc., they'll often do in a pinch. Don’t forget about the value of intangibles. Sunlight, gravity and good will can all act in your favor and can even be harnessed to your advantage.
  • Use situations to your advantage. There are negatives and positives to every situation. Try not to focus on what is wrong or bad about it. Look at the bright side and see what you can do right now with the positive aspects. If you missed the bus and the next one doesn't come for another hour, can you enjoy a cup of coffee or browse a nearby store while you wait? If the weather is freezing, could you use snow as shelter or ice as a building material? If you are afraid, use fear to motivate you. It will drive you to get out of a bad situation. Harness that energy to think of a solution and take action. Emotions can be strong incentives to do things better and more efficiently, so use them wisely.
  • Act quickly. Often an effective solution hinges on a speedy response. Be decisive, and once a decision is made, don't analyze–just act. You can’t solve a problem without taking some sort of action first. Remember that not making decisions costs you, whether it results in lost earnings or revenue, a less than stellar reputation or career problems. Empty inboxes and desks that are not covered in piles of unfinished paperwork are signs of making quick decisions and taking action. When something comes your way, take care of it right away instead of letting it linger. Making quick decisions about small matters is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it help you keep on top of everything sent your way, it also reduces stress, improves productivity and gives you a great reputation for managing your work. Let the positive aspects of quick decision-making be motivating factors for doing what needs to be done now. Start somewhere. Putting off what you know needs to be done is not conducive to reaching your goal. Take the first step by initiating the action needed to finish that task. Then move on to another.
  • Learn from your mistakes. If you had to scramble to correct a problem, take steps to make sure that it doesn't happen again. If you tried something that didn't work, try it a different way next time. See what went wrong and go from there. Play a few hands at once. Realize that sometimes your plan might not work out. Work on multiple angles for the same problem. Have a plan B and C ready.
  • Ask for help. Recognize when you need help to complete your goals. Swallow your pride and seek out people who can assist with your problem. The more you show people that working with you will also help advance their goals, the more likely you'll succeed. Whether you need bus fare to get home, good ideas, moral support, the use of a phone or simply extra hands, involve others if you can. Even if you end up asking help of strangers, you will probably be pleasantly surprised by the results. Brainstorming together may result in some great, joint solutions. Ask people you know and trust. Seek professional help. If it's appropriate, ask anybody in charge (authorities, employees, docents, ushers), since these people often have access to additional resources. If one or two people are not enough, find out if you could form a team or task force. Could you persuade city hall or another organization to further your cause?

5. How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was the ultimate Renaissance man: an accomplished scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, and writer. Whether you want to cultivate curiosity, creativity, or scientific modes of thought, using Leonardo Da Vinci as a role model is an excellent idea. To learn how to start thinking like a great master of the mind.

5.1. Cultivating Curiosity

  • Question received wisdom and authority. Genuine innovation requires that you, like Leonardo Da Vinci, question the accepted answers to complicated questions and actively form your own opinions and observations about the world you inhabit. Leonardo trusted his senses and intuition over the “wisdom” of others, both contemporary and historical, relying upon himself and his own experience of the world to inform his worldview. For Leonardo, curiosity meant both looking forward and looking back, looking beyond the accepted wisdom of the Christian Bible to interact with the ancients, studying Greek and Roman texts and philosophical modes of thought, the scientific method, and art. Exercise: Examine an angle of a particular issue, concept, or topic you feel strongly about, from the opposite point of view of your own. Even if you're confident you “understand” what makes a painting great, or how a string quartet is put together, or you know everything there is to know about the state of the polar ice caps, make it your business to seek out dissenting opinions and alternative ideas. Make an argument for the opposite of what you believe. Play devil's advocate.
  • Risk making mistakes. A creative thinker won't hide in the comfortable blanket of safe opinions, but will mercilessly seek truth, even at the risk of being completely and totally wrong. Let your curiosity and enthusiasm for topics rule your mind, not the fear of being wrong. Embrace mistakes as opportunities and think and act in such a way as to risk making them. Greatness risks failure. Leonardo Da Vinci enthusiastically studied physiognomy, a bogus science that purported to link facial features and character. Now thoroughly debunked, it was a trendy concept in Leonardo's day, and might've contributed significantly to his innovative interest in our understanding of detailed anatomy. Though we might think of this as “wrong” it's perhaps better to think of it as a kind of swampy stepping stone to a greater truth. Exercise: Find a dated, debunked, or controversial idea and learn everything you can about it. Consider what it would mean to see the world in this alternative way. Look into the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Hell's Angels, or the Harmony Society, and learn about their worldview and the historical context of their organization. Were they, or are they, “wrong”?
  • Pursue knowledge fearlessly. The curious thinker embraces the unknown, the mysterious, and the frightening. To learn about anatomy, Leonardo spent countless hours studying corpses in less-than-sterile conditions, compared to the modern cadaver lab. His thirst for knowledge far outweighed his squeamishness, and led to his pioneering study of the human body and his life drawings. Exercise: Research a topic that frightens you. Filled with dread about the end of the world? Research eschatology and apocalypse. Scared of vampires? Dig up the dirt on Vlad the Impaler. Nuclear war always giving you nightmares? Learn about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.
  • Look for the interconnectedness in things. To think curiously means to look for patterns in ideas and images, finding similarities that link disparate concepts rather than differences. Leonardo Da Vinci could never have invented the “mechanical horse” that became his bicycle without having linked seemingly unrelated concepts, horse-riding and simple gears. Try to find common ground in your interpersonal interactions, and look for the things you can relate to about an idea or issue, the things you can take from it, rather than looking at it as “wrong”. Exercise: Close your eyes and randomly draw squiggles or lines on a page, then open your eyes and finish the drawing you started. Look into the nonsense and make sense from it. Generate a list of “off the top of your head” words and put them all into the same poem or story, looking for a narrative in the chaos.
  • Draw your own conclusions. The curious thinker is unsatisfied with received wisdom and accepted answers, and chooses instead to either validate those accepted answers with real-life observations and perceptions, or form new opinions based on an experience of the world. Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't validate the existence of Australia because you haven't seen it yourself, but rather that you choose to abstain from an opinion about it until you've learned everything you can about it, and experienced that knowledge for yourself. Exercise: Think of a time your opinion was swayed by someone or something. It could be as simple as changing your opinion about a movie you kind of liked, because all your friends felt the opposite way and you preferred to fit in. Go back and re-examine that movie with a fresh set of eyes.

5.2. Thinking Scientifically

  • Ask probing questions. Sometimes the simplest questions are the most complex. How does a bird fly? Why is the sky blue? These are the kinds of questions that drove Leonardo Da Vinci to his innovative genius and scientific study. It was insufficient for Da Vinci to hear “Because God wills it,” when the answer was much more complicated and much less abstract. Learn to form probing questions about the things that interest you and test them to obtain results. Exercise: Write down at least five questions about a subject that fascinates you, and that you'd like to know more about. Instead of doing a cursory wikipedia search of the topic and then forgetting the matter completely, select a single question from that list and sit with it for at least a week. How do mushrooms grow? What is coral? What is a soul? Research it at the library. Write about it. Draw about it. Think about it.
  • Test your hypotheses with your own observations. When you've started to form your own opinion about a particular topic or question, when you think you're getting close to a satisfactory answer, determine what criteria would be sufficient to either accept or reject that answer. What would prove you were right? What would prove you were wrong? How can you test your idea? Exercise: Come up with a testable theory for your probing question and set up an examination, using the scientific method. Gather some substrate and grow your own mushrooms to learn more about different methods, techniques, and varieties.
  • See your ideas all the way through to completion. The scientific thinker interrogates ideas until all avenues of thought have been prodded at, examined, verified, or rejected. Leave no avenue of inquiry untouched. Regular thinkers often get attached to one of the first pleasing options or answers, ignoring the more interesting or complicated questions that might be more accurate. If you want to think like Leonardo Da Vinci, leave no stone unturned in your search for truth. Exercise: Practice mind mapping. A powerful tool that can help you combine logic and imagination in your work and life, the end result of mapping should be a web-like structure of words and ideas that are somehow related in your mind, making it easier to remember all the nooks and crannies of your thoughts, failure and success alike. Mind mapping can improve memory, reading retention, and creativity.
  • Build new concepts from a foundation of failures. A scientist embraces failed experiments in the same way that a scientist embraces successful ones: an option has been eliminated from the list of possibilities, getting you one step closer to some truth. Learn from hypotheses that turn out to be wrong. If you were absolutely sure that your new way of structuring a work day, writing a story, or rebuilding your engine would be perfect, and it turned out not to be so, celebrate! You completed an experiment and learned what won't work next time. Exercise: Think back to a particular failure. List all the things you learned from it, what you'll be able to do more effectively as a direct result of that failure.

5.3. Practicing Creativity

  • Keep a detailed and illustrated journal. Much of what we now celebrate as priceless art was really just Leonardo Da Vinci's daily sketch book, which he recorded not because he was actively trying to make a masterpiece, but because the creative act was integrated to such a degree in his everyday life that it became the way he processed thoughts, writing them down with accompanying illustrations. Writing forces you to think in a different way, articulating your nebulous thoughts as specifically and concretely as possible. Exercise: Come up with a list of topics on which you'll thoroughly journal over the course of a day. Big topics you've got opinions about, like “television” or “Bob Dylan” would be perfectly appropriate. Start addressing the issue by writing at the top of the page, “On Dylan” and writing, drawing, and free-associating your way through the writing. If you come to a place you're unsure about, do some research. Learn more.
  • Write descriptively. Cultivate a rich vocabulary and use accurate words in your descriptions. Use similes, metaphors, and analogies to capture abstract concepts and seek connections between your ideas, continually investigating the roil of your thoughts. Describe things in terms of tactile senses–touch, smell, taste, feel–and also in terms of their import, their symbolism as you're experiencing it, and their significance. Exercise: Read Charles Simic's poem “Fork”.[2] In it, he describes the most pedestrian and everyday object both accurately and with the strangest of eyes.
  • See clearly. One of Leonardo's mottoes was saper vedere (knowing how to see), upon which he built his work in arts and science. While you're journaling, develop a sharp eye for seeing the world and turn it onto luminous particularities. Write down images you see throughout the day, striking things, bits of graffiti, gestures, strange shirts, strange bits of language, anything that strikes you. Record it. Become an encyclopedia of tiny moments and record those moments in words and images. Exercise: You don't have to journal like it was the 15th century. Use your camera phone to take lots of pictures on the way to work to liven up your commute. Make yourself actively seek out 10 striking images on your way and take pictures of them. On your way home, look back through the morning pictures and think about what it was that struck you. Look for the connections in the chaos.
  • Cast a wide net. Leonardo Da Vinci is the Platonic ideal of the Renaissance Man: equally notable as a scientist, artist, and inventor, Leonardo would be doubtless confused and frustrated by modern notions of a “career.” It's hard to imagine him sullenly carting off to work at an office, putting in his hours and going home to watch “House of Cards.” If you're interested in a subject or a project that's outside of your everyday experiences, call that an opportunity rather than a challenge. Embrace the luxury of modern life for the instantaneous access we have to information, the freedom we have to pursue experiences, and the limitlessness of it. Exercise: Write up a bucket list of subjects and projects you want to accomplish over the next several months or years. Always wanted to get a draft of a novel together? Or learn banjo? There's no sense in waiting for it to happen. It's never too late to learn.

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