Focus on solutions, not problems

Do you complain too much? The story of the wise man and the same old jokes


There was once an old wise man who liked to walk…He walked far and wide, but always set off from the same point. On his regular journeys out of town, he’d often come across the same group of shopkeepers.

Almost every time he passed, he’d hear them complaining about the same old things. One day, he stopped to tell the group a joke.

They all laughed.

A few days later, he walked past the same group of shopkeepers and repeated the joke. This time, only a few people smiled.

Later that week, He repeated the joke for a third time. This time, no one reacted.

So he asked them, “If you don’t find jokes you’ve heard before funny, why do you bother to repeatedly complain about the same old problems?

You’ll laugh more if you start concentrating on solutions rather than problems.

Focusing on the problems can create unnecessary anxiety and stress while at the same time demotivate you and your workers. In short, it does nothing to fix or better the situation.

How to be more solution-oriented

Have you ever met someone who is more problem-oriented than solution-oriented? Someone whose entire personality is based on complaining? They can rumble on for hours and hours about one issue after the other…

How did it make you feel?

If we’re being honest, it can be super draining, and it doesn’t do a thing in solving the issue(s)!

Rather than focusing on the problems at hand, we need to be more proactive about finding the solutions.

In Stephen Covey’s The seven habits of highly effective people he says,

“Highly proactive people recognise their responsibility to change situations. They don’t blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on value, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

In business, it’s REALLY important that you focus on the solutions rather than the problems because if you don’t, you may land in a never-ending cycle of problems.

That said, here are 5 ways to be more solution-oriented:

1. Look for likely outcomes

No matter how hard it seems, it’s best if we try to emotionally dissociate from the problem at hand and instead look at it logically. This is the only way to solve an issue.

This goes for teams as well. If you are the leader, encourage the members not to dwell on the past, but rather focus on how to change the situation.

Dwelling on the problem does nothing but waste time and energy, which would otherwise be spent on changing things for the better.

When looking for possible outcomes, you have to envision exactly what it would look like, how much it would cost, and who exactly would be involved.

2. Think strategically

Depending on the nature of the situation, you will need to be strategic and systematic. 

Identifying a problem is the first step, and finding the solution the second. How do you get from point A to point B in the quickest and most efficient way?

At its core, strategic thinking and problem solving are about exploring possibilities in a space where analytical judgement and critical thinking have been temporarily suspended.

If you’re in business, this stage may entail exploring the possibilities of how your customers respond to the different solutions you come up with. How will you monitor these responses and adapt accordingly as they come?

Thinking strategically allows you to foresee any future loopholes and find ways to deal with them beforehand. By doing this, you’re in a better suited position to overcome problems in future.

3. Be creative to find solutions

Let’s be honest…

Whenever you’re trying to find solutions, you’ll need to get your creative juices working. You need to have an open mind and try as much as possible to think outside the box.

Push your thinking beyond your self-imposed limits to get to the ideas that are innovative in sense of approach and even design.

This is where having a team comes in handy, because you can build up an idea from one point until it becomes the best suited plan to execute. That way, a problem can easily turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

4. Commit to focussing

Once you’ve thought up possible solutions, you (and your team) need to come together and create a proper plan. 

By surfacing your recommendations with clear context and logical explanations, you demonstrate an ability to lead with purpose and not stand paralyzed in the face of a problem.

In this step, everyone is given clear roles on what they need to do and within which timeframe, in order to succeed.

5. Resist problem-oriented queries

A solution-oriented leader should not linger on the what if’s, or the we should’ve, would’ve, could haves…

While it is undebatable that we need to learn from our mistakes, we shouldn’t focus on them. They may help with the solution but, again, dwelling on them too much will create more damage than good.

What they do, more than anything, is waste time. Focus less on why what happened did, and more on what to do now. In short, leave the past in the past.


If you’re in business, then you need to get accustomed to dealing with problems, because they will be there. It’s guaranteed!

What you also need to get used to doing is focusing more on how to deal with these problems rather than how to linger on them.

In conclusion, these are the 5 ways to be more solution-oriented as opposed to problem-oriented:

  1. Look for possible outcomes
  2. Think strategically
  3. Be creative to find solutions
  4. Commit to focussing
  5. Resist problem-oriented queries

Remember what the old wise man asked the shopkeepers, 

“If you don’t find jokes you’ve heard before funny, why do you bother to repeatedly complain about the same old problems?

Let me ask you something, are there times when you complain about problems instead of finding solutions to address them? How are you going to change that?

Onwards and upwards my friend,

Pete x


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