Daily Herald February 9, 1991
Acronyms are handy ways to remember ideas. Each letter represents one word. Acronyms are often real words, but many become part of common language. S.N.A.F.U. is an acronym for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up". An acronym is a recipe. It gives the ingredients. It tells the order in which to add them. But it doesn't give the final product. Reading a recipe for something is not the same as making it. You end up with something only if you actually use the recipe. If you don't make it, nothing happens. But, if you don't deal with a problem in your life, it gets worse. The "I.D.E.A.L." way to solve problems has five steps.
- IDENTIFY the problem.
- DESCRIBE the possibilities.
- EVALUATE the ideas.
- ACT out a plan.
- LEARN for the future.
Each step may be easy to do, but is just as easy to avoid. Solving problems involves reorganizing how you think about things, and what you do about them. Whenever you change something in your life, there's a period of disorganization or upset. Most people don't like being upset. But if you bury your head in the sand, a problem doesn't go away. You also get a head full of sand, and it's hard to breathe! So the "I.D.E.A.L." thing to do about a problem may also be the best thing to do.
Few people want to IDENTIFY and own a problem. If it doesn't affect them badly, then it's not a problem to them. But if it does, only they can decide what they do about it. To own a problem, you must stop yourself from falling into three common and unhelpful human habits: denying the problem exists; minimizing the problem if you can't totally deny it; and blaming anyone but yourself for the problem.
DESCRIBING the possibilities involve looking at the many ways you can approach a problem, and the many ways of resolving it. Open yourself to any ideas that come into your mind.
EVALUATE all of these ideas. Be critical in a positive way. Watch out for any ideas that get you off the hook for being responsible for your own problem. Nobody enjoys accepting responsibility for problems. But if a problem is yours, you are the only one who can handle it. The only way you handle it is to totally accept it.
Next, ACT out a specific plan. Look at your list. Some ideas are realistic, some less so. You've weeded through and picked out the ideas that seem best. Now, carry one of those plans out. If you can't choose between two or three plans to try, do the following. Imagine yourself doing each one. Note the differences in how you feel and what you think will result from each plan. Write these on pieces of paper. Now, draw one piece of paper from the hat. If you're disappointed when you un-crumple it, you'll know that the other plans deserve more serious attention. Once you decide on a plan, act on it. Sitting on a plan won't do a thing towards solving a problem.
LEARN for the future. How did your plan turn out? What does this tell you about similar problems you might have in the future? Is it a good plan to keep on file? If so, note it on a piece of paper. Memory is a poor file cabinet, especially when you feel hassled or pressured. No plan in life is perfect. But this one is certainly I.D.E.A.L.