A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” (Charles Kettering)
One of the most important things you can do before trying to solve a problem is to ask the right questions. In order to do so, you have to slow down and think carefully about the root of the problem you’re trying to solve. If you don’t, you might end up solving the wrong problem and wasting a lot of time. This applies to any problem—a school assignment, work project, major life decision, or picking the right swimming gear.
Let’s look at an example that shows how you can end up with opposite conclusions by asking different questions.
In this example, you want to learn how to attain horizontal alignment in the water. You can’t figure it out on your own, so you decide to look for a training tool that will help. You do a quick search online and see that a swimming buoy might be the tool you need.
At this point you might ask yourself the following question:
- Will a swimming buoy help me attain horizontal alignment?
The answer to this questions is:
- Yes, a swimming buoy will help you attain horizontal alignment.
The answer Yes might indicate that you found the right tool for the job. However, if you think about the problem and about the solution a little longer, you will realize you solved the wrong problem.
The problem you had was how to learn to attain horizontal alignment. Put more precisely: how to learn to use your body to attain horizontal alignment. So, the question that you need to ask is:
- Will a swimming buoy teach me to use my body to attain horizontal alignment?
The answer to this question is:
- No, a swimming buoy will not teach you to use your body to attain horizontal alignment.
A swimming buoy puts you in the horizontally aligned position bypassing learning and body awareness. It does not teach you how to use your body to attain horizontal alignment. It’s a crutch that, when removed, leaves you in the same situation as before. By asking the right question—will a swimming buoy teach me to use my body to attain horizontal alignment?—you came to a different conclusion, one that gets to the root of the problem of attaining horizontal alignment.
It can be challenging to identify the root of your question, but with practice it does get easier. If you slow down and think about your ultimate goal, you will discover that the problem becomes more clear. By asking questions that get to your core problem—big or small—you are more likely to find a solution that works for you.