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Problem Solving Hobbies

Hobbies and Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is essential in every aspect of our lives. While there is plenty of problem-solving advice out there, it is mostly generic and unhelpful. Mindfulness is the one skill that underlines our problem-solving abilities, and it can be fostered with hobbies. Hobbies can also help us practice and improve other problem-solving-related skills.

Is generic problem-solving advice helpful?

Problem-solving is crucial for every aspect of our lives. Fortunately, we can become better problem-solvers.

Great problem solvers are made, not born.Business problem solving | McKinsey


Business is one context in which problem-solving is crucial. In fact, problem-solving is the foundation of business: recognizing a problem and selling a solution.

Probably for this reason, the internet is packed with problem-solving advice, promising to make us better problem-solvers, and hence, better money-makers.

This is mostly generic advice: structured methods, techniques, strategies, and formulas, along with a collection of acronyms for memorizing them.

How generic the advice is? Take for example step 3 of MasterClass’ Problem Solving Process: “Look for possible solutions”.

While some of this advice might sound sensible, is it actually practical and helpful?

Probably not.

Problems Are Often Dynamic, Not Generic

Problems are, more often than not, unstructured. Otherwise, they were less likely to be problems. Trying to solve unstructured problems with structured methods might prove to be impractical, and probably frustrating.

Moreover, our minds work differently. A problem-solving formula that works for some, wouldn’t necessarily work for others.

No wonder this generic advice is usually coupled with statements such as “Always remember to use what works best for you“, which essentially undermines the original advice.

Moreover, problems are often stressful and unpredictable. When a problem arises, we might not remember to consult our dedicated “How to solve problems” notebook.

So, in the absence of structured solutions, how can we become better problem solvers?

Common Barriers to Problem-Solving

We might benefit from approaching the problem of problem-solving from a different angle. Instead of asking “How to solve problems?”, we might ask “What prevents us from solving problems?”

The following are the most common barriers to solving problems, according to Wikipedia:

  • Confirmation bias: an unintentional tendency to collect and use data that favors preconceived notions.
  • Mental set: the inclination to re-use a previously successful solution, rather than search for new and better solutions. It is a reliance on habit.
  • Functional fixedness: the tendency to view an object as having only one function, and to be unable to conceive of any novel use.
  • Unnecessary constraints: arbitrary boundaries imposed unconsciously on the task at hand, which foreclose a productive avenue of solution.
  • Irrelevant information: a specification or data presented in a problem that is unrelated to the solution.

These are all mindset barriers. To overcome these barriers, we need to unset our minds. Instead of stuffing our minds with memorized problem-solving methods, we need to free our minds to be able to better perceive the specific problem we are currently trying to solve.

Mindfulness and Problem-Solving

Bearing in mind that the most common barriers to problem-solving are mindset-related, it is no wonder that mindfulness is associated with better problem-solving.

Results indicate that meditation leads to activation in brain areas involved in processing self-relevant information, self-regulation, focused problem-solving, adaptive behavior, and interoception.The Meditative Mind: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of MRI Studies | hindawi

Mindfulness is a meditation technique which has demonstrated to be useful for, among other things, educating attention and enhancing mental clarity, thus improving problem–solving capabilities, as described by Davis and Hayes (2011), Tan (2012), and Mrazek et al. (2013), among others. An experimental replication on the effect of the practice of mindfulness in conceptual modeling performance – ScienceDirect

The freeing of the mind is why we sometimes solve problems in our sleep:

The prefrontal cortex gets shut down. This part of the brain handles executive decision-making (which includes rational thinking and impulse control), but now there’s no critical edge or categories to put ideas in. The brain can freely associate and process in the background.Sleep to solve a problem – Harvard Health

Mindfulness, Problem-Solving, and Hobbies

Mindfulness doesn’t come easy, though. Hobbies are a great opportunity for fostering our mindfulness, by cultivating a stronger sense of self and allowing relaxation.

Hobbies can also help us practice and improve other problem-solving-related skills, such as creativity, analytical thinking, and observation skills.

Problem Solving Hobbies List

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