How To Deal With Difficult Problems In Life

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Dealing with difficult problems in life is encountered by us all.

Imagine waking up one morning to find your world turned upside down. The career you’ve dedicated years to suddenly hits a dead end, personal relationships crumble and unforeseen challenges pile up relentlessly. Life, once a predictable path, now seems like a treacherous maze with no clear way around.

Difficult problems have a way of finding each of us, casting their shadows over even the brightest days. They can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling lost and uncertain about how to navigate through the storm.

Forward Steps Latest Personal Development ProgrammeFear not, every problem is an opportunity in disguise, a chance to grow, learn and emerge stronger than ever before.


I. Coping Emotionally

II. Problem-Solving Strategies

III. Personal Growth and Mindset

IV. Building a Support Network

V. Stress Management and Self-Care

VI. Decision-Making Techniques

VII. Resilience and Perseverance

VIII. Goal Setting and Progress Tracking

In this article, I delve into a comprehensive guide that will empower you to face life’s toughest challenges head-on. By embracing a set of powerful strategies and techniques, you’ll discover the key to conquering adversities and transforming difficulties into stepping stones on your journey to a more resilient and fulfilled life.

Don’t let the fear of what could happen be the reality of what’s happening in this moment. -Rajesh Goyal Click To Tweet

Get ready to unravel the secrets of dealing with difficult problems and emerge triumphant on the other side.

I. Coping Emotionally

Case Study (fictional): Mark’s Exam Anxiety

Mark, a dedicated college student, found himself in the grip of overwhelming anxiety as an important final exam approached. The pressure to excel and the fear of failure weighed heavily on him, leading to sleepless nights and constant worry. Instead of keeping his feelings bottled up, Mark decided to embrace a proactive strategy of feeling and sharing his emotions. One evening, he sat down with his understanding roommate and opened up about his anxiety and the mounting stress. His roommate, who had experienced similar academic pressures, provided a listening ear and offered words of genuine encouragement. Together, they devised a study schedule that allowed for adequate breaks and self-care, which helped alleviate Mark’s feelings of being overwhelmed. He also sought support from the campus counseling center. Talking to others who understood his feelings helped him develop coping mechanisms, leading to better performance on the exam and improved well-being.

1. Learn from the Experience

Every difficult problem presents an opportunity for growth and learning. Take the time to reflect on the situation and identify the lessons it offers. Understand what went wrong and how you can avoid similar challenges in the future. Viewing problems as learning experiences can help you develop resilience and adaptability. Arthur Fry and the invention of the Post-it note is a great example of turning a problem to an opportunity.

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2. Engage in Creative Expression

Channel your emotions and thoughts into creative outlets such as writing, painting or music. Creative expression can serve as a therapeutic way to process difficult feelings and gain insights into your situation.

3. Practice Gratitude

In the midst of difficulty, it’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong. Practicing gratitude can shift your perspective and help you recognize the positive aspects of your life, providing a sense of hope and optimism.

4. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Our thoughts can influence our emotions and actions. When facing a difficult problem, challenge any negative or self-defeating thoughts that arise, replacing them with more constructive and empowering ones.

5. Feel and Share Your Feelings

Suppressing emotions can be counterproductive. Allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, whether it’s frustration, sadness or anger. Sharing your feelings with trusted individuals can also offer solace and fresh perspectives.

Life is not always fair. Sometimes you get a splinter sliding down a rainbow. -Terri Guillemets Click To Tweet

6. Avoid Dwelling on the Past

While it’s essential to learn from past mistakes, continuously dwelling on them can hinder your progress. Acknowledge the past and let go of any negativity or regret. Concentrate on the present and the steps you can take to create a better future.

II. Problem-Solving Strategies

Case Study (fictional): Ben’s Relationship Challenge

Ben and his partner, Sarah, were experiencing constant conflicts in their relationship, leaving both feeling frustrated and disconnected. Instead of dwelling on the issues, Ben decided to shift the focus towards finding solutions. He initiated open and honest communication with Sarah, expressing his feelings and encouraging her to share hers. Through their heartfelt conversations, they discovered that miscommunication and unmet expectations were at the core of their conflicts. Together, they developed a plan to improve their communication, including active listening and setting realistic expectations for each other. As they consistently applied the solutions they agreed upon, their relationship began to flourish, and they grew closer than ever before. By choosing to focus on solutions, Ben and Sarah were able to mend their relationship and build a stronger bond.

7. Focus on the Immediate Problem

Sometimes, problems become overwhelming when we set unrealistic expectations. Break down your goals into smaller, achievable steps and celebrate each milestone you reach. Large problems can be daunting, yet breaking them down into smaller, manageable tasks can make them less so and helps maintain focus.

Concentrate on addressing the immediate problem first before moving on to other aspects, which will build momentum towards a solution. Create a step-by-step plan to address each component of the problem. As you accomplish each mini-goal, you’ll gain confidence and momentum, bringing you closer to an overall solution.

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8. Focus on Solutions

Instead of dwelling on the problem itself, shift your focus to finding solutions. Analyze the situation objectively and explore various options. Be open-minded and willing to try new approaches. Remember that setbacks are part of the journey and every step towards a solution counts.

9. Utilize Data-Driven Analysis

Use data and analytics to gain insights into the problem and make informed decisions. Data can reveal patterns and trends that may not be apparent at first glance. It also helps minimize personal biases and assumptions that can cloud judgment. Relying on factual information fosters more objective decision-making. Combining data with intuition and personal experience can lead to a more holistic understanding of the problem and its potential solutions

10. Explore New Perspectives

Challenge your assumptions and explore different perspectives on the problem. Seeking diverse viewpoints can lead to innovative solutions.

11. Stay Informed and Updated

Stay up-to-date with relevant information and developments related to the problem. Being informed ensures you’re equipped to make well-informed decisions.

12. Rule Out Any Obvious Poor Options

When faced with difficult problems, it’s essential to begin by ruling out any obvious poor options. Identify choices that are clearly unfeasible or counterproductive, which will help narrow down your focus to more viable solutions.

13. Examine Consequences of All Options

Before making a decision, carefully examine the potential consequences of each option. Consider both short-term and long-term outcomes to ensure you’re making the best possible choice for your situation.

14. Create a Contingency Plan

Prepare for uncertainties by developing a contingency plan. Having a backup strategy in place can mitigate risks and provide you with a sense of security when dealing with difficult problems.

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. -Franklin D. Roosevelt Click To Tweet

15. Break Free from Analysis Paralysis

While thoughtful consideration is essential, avoid getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Set a deadline for decision-making and take action once you’ve gathered enough information to make an informed choice.

III. Personal Growth and Mindset

Case Study (fictional): Alex’s Career Transition

Alex, an advertising executive, faced a crossroads in his career when his company underwent a restructuring, leading to the elimination of his position. Rather than succumbing to despair, Alex chose to embrace change as an opportunity for personal growth. He realized that this was the perfect moment to explore his passion for photography and pursue a career in visual storytelling. Alex enrolled in photography courses, built a portfolio, and networked with industry professionals. Through hard work and dedication, he successfully transitioned into a new career as a professional photographer and found immense fulfillment in his newfound artistic path. By embracing change as an opportunity, Alex not only reinvented himself but also discovered a deeply gratifying vocation.

16. Visualize a Positive Outcome

Visualization can be a powerful tool in overcoming difficult problems. Envision a positive outcome, focusing on how you will feel once the problem is resolved. Keeping a clear vision of success can boost your motivation and help you stay on track. Visualize your desired outcomes by creating a vision board. Gather images, quotes and symbols that represent your goals and aspirations.

Forward Steps - Deal With Difficult Problems - rope quote 1000pxPlacing it somewhere visible can serve as a daily reminder of what you’re working towards. Regularly visualize yourself successfully overcoming the problem and achieving your desired outcomes.

17. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Adopt a growth mindset, believing that you can develop your abilities through dedication and hard work. Embracing challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement can empower you to tackle difficult problems with a can-do attitude.

18. Embrace Change as an Opportunity

Instead of fearing change, view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Welcome change as a chance to learn new skills, broaden your horizons and create a better version of yourself.

19. Prioritize Self-Reflection

Take time for self-reflection to better understand your thoughts, emotions and actions in relation to the problem. Self-awareness enhances problem-solving abilities.

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere. -Frank A. Clark Click To Tweet

20. Practice Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can shift your mindset and boost self-confidence. Regularly repeating positive statements can help you maintain a positive outlook during tough times.

IV. Building a Support Network

Case Study (fictional): Rachel’s Support Group

Rachel, a single mother, faced overwhelming challenges in balancing her career and parenting responsibilities. Feeling isolated and stressed, she sought solace in a support group for single parents. In this group, Rachel found a network of empathetic individuals who understood her struggles firsthand. They shared experiences, offered practical advice, and provided emotional support. Being part of the support group not only helped Rachel navigate the difficulties of single parenthood, but it also empowered her to provide support to others. The camaraderie and shared wisdom within the group created a strong bond among the members, making them feel understood, supported, and less alone in their journey.

21. Know You’re Not Alone

Many others have experienced similar problems and seeking support from a community or online forums can provide comfort and shared wisdom. You don’t have to face difficult problems alone. Reach out to friends, family or colleagues you trust and share your concerns with them. Sometimes, just talking about your struggles can provide relief and a fresh perspective.

Forward Steps - Deal With Difficult Problems - obstacles quote 1000pxCultivate a strong support network of individuals who have faced similar challenges or possess expertise in the area of your problem. If a problem seems too overwhelming or persists despite your efforts, don’t hesitate to seek professional support, such as a therapist or counselor, to guide you through challenging times.

22. Seek Input and Feedback from Others

Don’t hesitate to seek input and feedback from trusted individuals in your life. Getting a fresh perspective can shed light on blind spots and offer valuable insights you may not have considered.

23. Volunteer and Help Others

Helping others in need can provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Volunteering can also give you a fresh perspective on your own problems and remind you of the strength and resilience present in the human spirit.

You can't calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass. -Timber Hawkeye Click To Tweet

24. Seek Inspiration from Others

Read or listen to inspiring stories of individuals who have overcome significant challenges in life. Their experiences can offer motivation and valuable insights on how to deal with your own difficulties.

V. Stress Management and Self-Care

Case Study (fictional): Mark’s Digital Detox

Mark, a high-achieving professional, found himself overwhelmed by constant digital distractions and work-related emails, even during his leisure time. Realizing the toll it took on his mental well-being, he decided to implement a digital detox. Mark established designated periods each day where he disconnected from his devices and engaged in activities that brought him joy, such as reading, hiking, and spending quality time with loved ones. By unplugging regularly, Mark experienced a significant reduction in stress and increased mindfulness. He found that disconnecting from the digital world allowed him to recharge, be present in the moment, and return to work with renewed focus and creativity.

25. Take a Break and Reset

When confronted with a difficult problem, the first step is to remain calm and composed. When facing a complex problem, stepping away for a while can offer valuable perspective to bring clarity. Keeping a level head allows you to think rationally and make better decisions. Maintain a hopeful outlook, believing that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how insurmountable it may seem. During difficult times, it’s crucial to take care of yourself [PDF] both physically and mentally. A well cared for body and mind are better equipped to handle challenges.

Forward Steps - Deal With Difficult Problems - uncertainty quote 1000pxTake a break and make time for activities that bring you joy or relaxation, giving your mind the space it needs to recharge and approach the problem with renewed energy. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can reduce stress, lower anxiety levels and help you approach problems with a clearer mind. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and clarity during difficult times [PDF]. By being present and aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can better understand the root causes of the problem and approach it with a calmer mind.

26. Unplug and Disconnect

Constant exposure to screens and digital distractions can add to stress. Take time to unplug and disconnect from technology regularly. Engage in activities that allow you to be present and mindful of your surroundings.

The gem cannot be polished without friction. -Chinese Proverb Click To Tweet

27. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself throughout the process. Acknowledge that dealing with difficult problems can be challenging and it’s okay to experience setbacks. Practicing self-compassion fosters resilience and emotional well-being.

VI. Decision-Making Techniques

Case Study (fictional): Amy’s Health Journey

Amy, a health-conscious individual, struggled with recurring headaches and fatigue despite leading a seemingly healthy lifestyle. Instead of accepting it as a part of her routine, Amy decided to apply the “Five Whys” technique to identify the root cause. After asking herself “Why” several times, she realized that her headaches were often triggered by dehydration and irregular sleep patterns. Armed with this insight, Amy adjusted her daily routine. She prioritized drinking more water throughout the day and established a consistent sleep schedule. As a result, her headaches reduced significantly, and she felt more energized and focused. The “Five Whys” approach helped Amy proactively address her health issues and improve her overall well-being.

28. Practice the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique involves breaking work into short, focused intervals followed by short breaks. This method can enhance productivity and prevent burnout when dealing with complex problems. The technique got its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Francesco Cirillo used, during his university days in the 1980s, where “pomodoro” means tomato in Italian.

The core idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to break work into intervals, traditionally set to 25 minutes, known as “pomodoros.” After each pomodoro, there’s a short break of around 5 minutes.

Forward Steps - Deal With Difficult Problems - fear quote 1000pxSome people find that 25 minutes works best for them, while others may prefer shorter or longer intervals. After completing four pomodoros, a more extended break of around 15-30 minutes is taken. Effective time management can prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. Prioritize tasks and allocate specific time slots for addressing the problem, ensuring you make steady progress.

29. Practice the “Five Whys” Technique

The “Five Whys” technique, originally developed by The technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation, involves repeatedly asking “Why?” to get to the root cause of a problem. By identifying the underlying issues, you can devise more targeted solutions. Ask “Why” multiple times to dig deeper into each response until you reach a point where you can no longer break down the answer. This will lead you closer to the core issue.

Often, difficult problems have underlying causes that need addressing. Take the time to identify the root cause of the issue. By addressing the root cause directly, you can implement more targeted and long-lasting solutions, rather than merely treating the symptoms that may reappear later. Instead of continuously dealing with the consequences of a problem, you can take preemptive measures to prevent its recurrence.

30. Practice Mindful Decision-Making

Approach decision-making with mindfulness, staying present and aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindful decision-making can lead to more balanced and well-grounded choices.

31. Give Yourself Time to Think About Options

When dealing with difficult problems in life, resist the urge to rush into immediate solutions. Allow yourself time to carefully consider different options and potential outcomes. Taking a moment to think critically can lead to more informed and effective decision-making.

Don't stumble on something behind you. -Seneca Click To Tweet

32. Learn from Past Decisions

Reflect on past decisions and their outcomes to identify patterns and learn from both successes and mistakes. This introspection can inform your approach to future challenges.

VII. Resilience and Perseverance

Case Study (fictional): Michael’s Artistic Pursuit

Michael, an aspiring painter, faced numerous rejections while trying to exhibit his artwork in galleries. Despite the setbacks, he refused to give up on his dream. Michael continued to refine his craft, seeking feedback from other artists and mentors. He participated in local art fairs and community events to gain exposure. After months of dedication and persistence, Michael’s perseverance paid off when a renowned gallery recognized his talent and showcased his artwork. His journey taught him the value of staying patient and persistent in the face of adversity, and it reaffirmed his belief in the power of resilience to turn dreams into reality.

33. Stay Patient and Persistent

Solving difficult problems may take time and it’s essential to remain patient throughout the process. Avoid becoming discouraged by slow progress or setbacks. Stay persistent and remember that determination and perseverance often lead to success.

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34. Embrace Resilience and Grit

Cultivate resilience and grit, which are crucial qualities in overcoming difficulties. Resilience allows you to bounce back from setbacks, while grit helps you persevere in the face of challenges.

35. Stay Open and Flexible

Be willing to adapt and adjust your approach as the situation evolves. Flexibility allows you to respond effectively to unexpected developments. External factors and circumstances may change over time and being able to adjust your plans accordingly is vital to staying on track. Life is unpredictable and sometimes, despite our best efforts, things may not go as planned. Embracing flexibility allows you to adapt to changing circumstances and find alternative solutions. Being open to change can reduce stress and increase your problem-solving capabilities.

36. Keep Options Open and Do Not Burn Bridges

In the face of adversity, it can be tempting to burn bridges or close off potential paths. However, keeping your options open and maintaining positive relationships can create opportunities for collaboration and support in the future.

Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well. -Jack London Click To Tweet

37. Engage in Continuous Learning

Never stop learning and seeking new knowledge. Continuous learning equips you with the tools and skills needed to adapt to changing circumstances.

VIII. Goal Setting and Progress Tracking

Case Study (fictional): Jessica’s Personal Development

Jessica, a young professional, embarked on a journey of personal development and self-discovery. To track her progress and reflect on her experiences, she started keeping a problem-solving journal. In this journal, Jessica recorded her thoughts, insights, and solutions to the challenges she encountered. Over time, she noticed patterns in her behavior and thought processes that hindered her growth. Armed with this self-awareness, Jessica worked on breaking limiting beliefs and adopting more positive habits. The journal became a powerful tool for her personal growth, and she continued to use it to celebrate achievements, set new goals, and hold herself accountable to her aspirations.

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38. Implement Strategic Planning

Develop a well-structured plan with clear goals and action steps to tackle the problem strategically. Strategic planning increases efficiency and helps you stay on track.

39. Break Free from Perfectionism

Perfectionism can hinder progress and amplify feelings of inadequacy. Accept that it’s okay to make mistakes and that perfection is not always attainable. Focus on progress and continuous improvement instead.

40. Keep a Problem-Solving Journal

Maintain a journal to record your thoughts, feelings and progress as you navigate through difficult problems. Writing can be therapeutic and help you gain valuable insights into your own thoughts and behaviors.

In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope. -Bernanke Click To Tweet

41. Celebrate Small Victories

Acknowledge and celebrate each small achievement along the way. Celebrating milestones boosts motivation and provides a sense of accomplishment.

By considering all the above, you’ll have a comprehensive set of tools to approach and resolve dealing with difficult problems in your life. They each highlight an essential aspect of problem-solving and personal growth, contributing to a more empowered and resilient mindset. It’s okay to face difficulties, we all do, what matters most is how you navigate through them and emerge stronger on the other side.

Forward Steps - Deal With Difficult Problems - good cards quote 1000pxDealing with difficult problems in life is a process that requires time, patience and self-compassion. Be kind to yourself throughout the journey and acknowledge that it’s okay to ask for help when needed. By combining these strategies, you can better equip yourself to face life’s challenges with resilience and determination.

Everyone’s journey is different and it’s essential to find the strategies that work best for you. Approach each difficulty with an open mind, a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and you’ll emerge stronger.

Remember to practice self-care, learn from experiences and remain patient and persistent throughout your journey. Embrace uncertainty with flexibility and a belief in your ability to overcome any difficulty that comes your way.

Life’s challenges are not meant to break us, they are designed to shape us. Each obstacle you encounter is an opportunity for growth, learning and transformation. Allow yourself the space to stumble, yet never forget to rise stronger and wiser with every fall.

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Remember, the difficult problems of today will become your success stories of tomorrow.

PLUS check out these free gifts from friends…CHECK out the following great resources as well…Forward Steps Personal Development ยป How To Deal With Difficult Problems In Life

Hi, I'm Thea Westra at Forward Steps (

Hi, I'm Thea Westra at Forward Steps (

Since March 2003, I've been sharing practical, positive, thought provoking and inspiring self improvement content online. My aim is simple - to offer tips and resources that help us enhance our daily experience of life and to keep stepping forward. Perth, Western Australia is the place I call home and I'm the author of "Time For My Life: 365 Stepping Stones". You might also know me from the Forward Steps personal development blog and the daily series of "365 Forward Steps Notes", all designed to add wings to our unique life journeys.

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