The Most Direct Solution to Any Problem

March 11th, 2008 by Steve Pavlina

When trying to solve various problems in life, an approach I find very useful is to first identify what I’d consider the most direct solution, regardless of how I feel about actually implementing it. What’s the clearest, most direct path to my goal or the most efficient way to get around an obstacle?

Many problems will have multiple direct solutions, but often these solutions will be unsavory at first glance because they’ll require courage, self-discipline, creativity, or persistence to implement. But if we can somehow get ourselves to follow through, we know the solutions will actually work.

For example, suppose you want to lose weight. And suppose we can say that one (of many) direct solutions is to eat the same as you’re eating now, and boost your exercise output by 500 calories a day. If you implement this rather simplistic solution, you’ll lose weight. It may require discipline and persistence, but most people would agree that it will work if you follow through.

Another example: Suppose you’re interested in starting a relationship with someone, but you don’t know how that person feels about you. One direct solution would be to simply walk up, explain your thoughts and feelings, and ask if s/he is interested in discussing the possibility of a closer relationship. This will take less than a minute to say, and regardless of the outcome, at least you know where you stand. Of course this solution may require a lot of courage to overcome the possibility of rejection, but it’s very simple and straightforward.

See if you can identify the most direct solution to some of your problems. What’s the simplest and quickest way to reach your goals, assuming you had limitless courage and discipline?

Benefits of Directness

There are many seemingly challenging problems that have very simple, direct solutions. The real challenge is how to become the kind of person who can implement the most direct solutions instead of having to take a circuitous path to compensate for laziness or timidity. This is why working on your personal development, especially building your courage and self-discipline, is one of the best problem-solving techniques there is. When you go to work on yourself, problems that once seemed untenable become much easier to solve. You get better at implementing direct solutions instead of falling back on indirect ones.

One of the best areas where the idea of directness helped me was in making my career transition from game development to personal development in 2004. I asked myself what I’d do if I was already retired. My answer was that I’d spend most of my time working on personal growth with other growth-oriented people. That’s what I was already doing in my spare time when I wasn’t working. I realized I was running a games business to generate income, so I could pay my bills and then work on personal development in my spare time. That seemed like a needlessly indirect solution to me. Why couldn’t I just eliminate the middleman? I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be smarter to work on personal development full-time and find a way to pay all my bills from doing that?”

I identified a more direct solution, but it was a solution that would require courage, discipline, and creativity to implement. I could see that if I actually did it, it would work. (I’m glossing over the specific details, but I think you get the idea.) So then the problem became: How can I muster the inner resources I need to make this happen? When I tried to tackle that problem, the results were a bit unexpected. It turns out I didn’t need to build those inner resources so much. I just needed to be willing to apply them.

Why We Resist the Direct Solution

There’s something reassuring about a direct solution that you know is going to work, but there’s also something disturbing about it. When you see a direct solution staring you in the face, and you haven’t implemented it even though you know it will work, you have to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I holding myself back from solving this problem when the solution is right there?” If you really give that question some thought, it may lead you down an interesting rabbit hole.

My particular rabbit hole was that I had to consider whether I was willing to work hard to achieve a result I wanted. Was I only willing to take the easy path? I saw that the only real barrier to achieving my goal was whether I was willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen. Running my games business had become very easy for me, and I didn’t have to work that hard to keep it profitable. I had to decide whether I was willing to push myself to a new level of action. Once I could honestly say to myself, “Yeah, I’m willing to do that,” I was able to get moving and implement the direct solution. But as long as I was thinking, “There must be an easier way,” or “I’m not sure I want to do that much work,” all solutions (direct or indirect) eluded me.

Consider one of the direct solutions you identified in your own life. Stop and ask yourself, “Am I willing to do that? Am I willing to be the kind of person who could implement this solution?”

What does it mean if you say you don’t want to be the kind of person who’d implement the direct solution? Are you saying you’d rather be uncreative, undisciplined, and timid instead of creative, disciplined, and courageous? When you bring these issues up and deal with them consciously, it’s hard to admit that you’ve been choosing to be that kind of person — the kind of person who has to settle for slower, more indirect solutions and sometimes no solution at all. But that is what you’re choosing when you shun the direct solution, isn’t it?

You have an important choice to make regarding what kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be courageous, disciplined, creative, and persistent or not? Do you think those are good qualities to develop in yourself? If not, then you’re basically left to embrace their opposites by default. Is that something you’re willing to do?

Directness and the Law of Attraction

What about using the Law of Attraction? Is that part of a direct solution? That depends on the problem.

Consider this simple example. A common manifestation exercise is to try to manifest a blue feather somewhere in your reality. You hold the intention to see a blue feather sometime in the next 24 hours. What’s the most direct solution to that intention? Is it to wait patiently and let the universe bring it to you somehow? Why not simply do a Google image search? You’ll find your blue feather within seconds. Problem solved. Next.

Many times when people try to apply the Law of Attraction, they simultaneously resist implementing the most direct solution to their problem. To me that’s a mixed intention. If you really desire something badly enough, why on earth would you resist the most direct path to it? Doesn’t that imply you don’t really want it? Or maybe you don’t want to become the kind of person who’d be able to get it. If you already have a direct solution staring you in the face, and you don’t implement it, I’d say you’re using the Law of Repulsion more than the Law of Attraction.

The point of the Law of Attraction is to hold the intention to discover a direct solution to a problem. Once that solution is already known to you, the Law of Attraction has done its job. Your job is to implement the solutions you attract.

When you find yourself having difficulty solving a problem, but you can identify a direct solution with relative ease, perhaps the real problem isn’t what you think it is.



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