Solving problems well is important

My great-niece, Ella, and my great-nephew, Nicholas, both are in the fourth grade. And recently, they had a very interesting assignment.
They were instructed to choose a real-life problem and then make a list of 20 possible solutions. Next, they were to choose the best solution and create it.
What a wonderful exercise for 10-year-olds!
Ella chose a common problem–seeing in the dark when you have to go to the bathroom at night. She bought a new pair of slippers and cut a hole in the toe of each slipper. Then she sewed tiny flashlights into the slippers.
Nicholas, meanwhile, chose a real-life problem in his interest area. Since his father, Darwin, deals in antique John Deere tractors and Nicholas helps his father, he knows how important it is to have a yard free of nails that could puncture tires.
His smart solution was to attach a strong magnet to a long handle so he could pick up nails on the ground while standing.
Learning how to solve problems is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn. After all, life is full of problems. Large problems and small. Thorny crises and easily-solved problems.
And the way we deal with these daily experiences defines our lives.
It makes me think of two problems I’ve had to deal with quite recently. One was large and important. The other was trifling.
Fortunately, I solved the important one without too much difficulty. But I’m still dealing with the tiny one.
Let’s begin with the unimportant one. It seems I never have enough plastic grocery bags for household uses because our main shopper is very environmentally aware and uses reusable bags.
Obviously not a serious problem. But still an annoyance.
The important problem surfaced a few months ago when my exercise room was closed for renovations and my favourite exercise machine–the NuStep–no longer was available.
After looking at the options, I enrolled in two exercise classes–one an arthritis class and the other a strength training class.
Fortunately, as often happens, the new solution is better than the old. The classes are very helpful and I love the social contact. I have made new friends and reconnected with old ones.
That’s the way life works. We solve one problem at a time. Knowing all the time that we will never be problem-free.
When you wake up in the morning refreshed, tackle the day’s problems with vigour.
When a problem arises, the first thing to do is to assess how serious it is. Don’t make mountains out of molehills but recognize a mountain when you see it.
Solve the trifling problems quickly or just let them go. But with major problems, why not try the fourth-grade assignment. Make a list of possible solutions–either in your head or on paper.
Then choose the best option.
If you have trouble seeing options or picking the best one, why not consult a family member or a friend. Or, if needed, even a professional.
And always remember, the way you solve problems makes a huge difference in your life satisfaction and happiness.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at