Problem Solving
All Posts,  Life Skills

Problem Solving

One of the things I still battle with, believe it or not, is making decisions and acting on them.

I always fear the worst. I worry the decision I make will turn out to be the wrong one. I worry there will be negative consequences to anything I do. I turn every molehill I come up against into mountains of gigantic proportions.

Even the smallest thing can leave me paralysed with uncertainty and unable to make a decision or to act on it if I do. Little things like taking my computer in to be fixed can result in a major struggle to get myself to do it.

Recently the USB ports in my computer stopped working and I was unable to use the mouse or keyboard. I bought non USB ones and carried on. I ran all the checks I could but it became obvious something was wrong. I didn’t want to do anything about it for fear it would only make things worse but I knew, from bitter past experience, I could not leave it at that. I needed to take the computer back where I bought it and have them look at it while it was still under warranty.

I can’t count the number of times I have struggled on with defective products because I couldn’t force myself to face the process of returning them. In the end the warranties ran out and I was left with shoddy goods. I try harder to make myself return things if necessary now.

The thought of taking my computer in to be fixed filled me with visions of all the things that could go wrong. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find the receipts to prove I bought it from them a couple of months ago. I worried they would keep the computer for weeks and I would miss it. I worried it would cost me too much or they would give it back with other problems. I was sure the hard drive would die and I would lose everything on it. I did not want to deal with the problem in case things got worse.

As a psychologist I know exactly what I am supposed to do in situations like this. There are certain things called “Life skills”. There are several life skills and a lot of people don’t have all of them. I did not have most of them until I began my studies to become a psychologist and learned about them.

One life skill is called “Problem solving” and this is the one I decided to use on this occasion. One of the ways to problem solve is to break the task you are faced with down into smaller, more manageable steps to encourage yourself to make a start on dealing with it.

So what were the precise steps I needed to take to get my computer fixed?

  • Step one — find the receipt so I could get the work done under warranty.
  • Step two — burn any irreplaceable stuff to CD to save it.
  • Step three — call the computer place and book the computer in.
  • Step four — unplug the computer.
  • Step five — carry the computer to the car.
  • Step six — drive to the computer place.
  • Step seven — carry the computer in to the computer place.

I knew it would be smooth sailing once I got as far as booking the computer in. Once I had an appointment I would keep it. My difficulty lay in getting as far as making that appointment. I couldn’t just make it for fear they would tell me to bring it in straight away and I wouldn’t be ready to do that.

So there I was with a clearly laid out step by step plan. It should have been simple from there but no. Suddenly step one took on gigantic proportions.

I didn’t want to look for the receipts. I was afraid I might not have kept them or that I had put them somewhere I would not be able to find them. I didn’t want to know I no longer had them if that was what I was going to find out.

Once again I turned to the problem solving formula. I needed to break step one down into its own smaller, more manageable steps and start there.

What are the precise steps involved in looking for my receipts?

  • Step one — look in the desk. It is where I usually put receipts and documents for major purchases. That is where it should be.
  • Step two — look in the case. I have been putting a lot of stuff there lately. It might be there.
  • Step three — look in the filing cabinet. It’s possible I put it there.
  • Step four — look through the pile of papers in the bedroom. It shouldn’t be there but that’s the next most likely place to look.
  • Step five — look through the pile of papers under the computer.  It’s highly unlikely I would have put it there but I am more likely to find it there than under the couch for example.

I still didn’t want to look for my receipts in case I didn’t find them so I had to continue to follow the problem solving formula and break even step one of this down to more manageable proportions!

What are the steps involved in looking in the desk?

  • Step one — stand up.
  • Step two — walk to the desk.
  • Step three — open the drawer.
  • Step four — look inside the drawer.

It didn’t help. I didn’t want to know if I had lost the receipt so I had to do more problem solving and break that step one down to more manageable proportions.

What are the steps involved in standing up?

  • Step one — (I was sitting up in bed) push the doona off my legs
  • Step two — swing my legs over the side of the bed
  • Step three — set my feet on the floor
  • Step four — lean forward until my weight is over my feet
  • Step five — push down and straighten knees.

I still didn’t want to know if I had lost the receipts so I had to use another life skill (self talk) and try to motivate myself.

“It’s not that big a deal — if you look for the receipts and you can’t find them it just means you won’t be able to take the computer in under warranty. If that happens you can deal with it — you have dealt with much worse than that in your life and survived. If you want you can just look in the desk then stop. You don’t have to go through all the steps if you don’t want to. You can just push the doona off your legs and stop there if you like. You don’t even have to walk to the desk you can get a drink instead. All you have to do right now is push the doona off your legs.  Just do step one and take it from there.”

For half an hour I kept at myself. I begged, I pleaded, I cajoled, I nudged, I pushed. I got myself to my feet by deciding to get a drink and, at that point, I finally got sick of my own nagging so I went to the desk and looked.

The receipts were right there on the top.

I then invented something new to worry about. What if they don’t believe they put the computer together for me and they say the damage was done by whoever assembled it?

I was already on my feet and in search mode with a list of places to look so I went looking for the work order sheet they gave me when they assembled it. I did not find it so I was back to square one. I can’t take it in if I can’t prove they assembled it but it occurred to me to look closely at my receipt. There it was — a charge for “assembly”.

Step one of the main plan was finally accomplished. It was time to look at step two. I didn’t want to try and burn my data to disc. I had not tried to do that with the new computer. I might find out I couldn’t do it. I might not have any blank CD’s to burn to anyway and so on.

Once again I had to break the task down to more manageable proportions starting with:

  • Step one — Get blank CD’s.
  • Step two — turn on the computer.
  • Step three — insert a blank CD.
  • Step four — find the CD burning programme and open it up.
  • Step five — select data to be saved.
  • Step six — burn the discs.

I glanced at the computer desk where a brand new packet of blank cd’s was sitting unopened. I bought them after the old computer died and I lost data because I didn’t have enough cd’s to burn it all to.

I won’t bore you with any more details about my struggle to get the computer back to the store. I will skip over all that to the end.

I was on my way home from dropping the computer off to be fixed. I was sure the problem would turn out to be the motherboard and they would have to send it back to the manufacturer. I was convinced the hard drive would pack up and I would lose all my data plus have to wait weeks for the new motherboard to arrive.

Half way home my mobile rang so I pulled off to the side of the road and answered it. It was the technician. He said he had checked all the usb ports and there was nothing wrong with them. I turned around and went back to pick my computer up.

I wondered if the problem was my printer. That was the only USB device I did not unplug when trying to find out the problem. I came home and plugged the computer back in without the printer and sure enough — there is nothing wrong with it any more.

Now I have to force myself to plug the printer in to find out if it is faulty. I bought it from the same place at the same time so I need to check it before it runs out of warranty.

I am worn out from the battle to get the computer back to the store so I just can’t bring myself to plug in the printer and check it. Not just yet. I will do it before the warranty runs out though.

I will.

At least I already know where the receipt is this time.

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