What’s the Challenge?



One of the best ways to solve a problem is to first frame it.  You can start to frame it, by first restating it in the form of a challenge.

Here are some problems:

  1. I’m having a bad day.
  2. I can’t get the support I need for the project.
  3. I don’t know where to start.

Now, here are some challenges:

  1. How can I have a good day?
  2. How can I get better sponsorship for the project?
  3. What’s the simplest thing I can start with?

Same problems, new frame … new perspective.  Once you start asking your brain better questions, your brain kicks it into high gear and starts to problem solve.  If you find yourself looping on the same question, then either change the question, or change your approach.  For example, try asking yourself “How” questions instead of “Why” questions (“Why” questions can lock you in a loop or justify the problem your stuck in.)

Whenever you find yourself mired in problems, remember this one-liner reminder:

What’s the challenge, frame the challenge, find the solution.

And always tickle your sticking points with the famous words of Voltaire, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

Photo by Shandi-lee.


  1. I love this. It’s about reversing how you feel, but asking question that will allow you to think and provide a different response. NOt excepting the norm and breaking out of the shell. The easy part is asking the question and answering. Once you do that, it’s time to take action.

  2. See – always simple and always practical J.D. You make what seems to be complex, relatively simple to ingest and act upon.

    “What’s the challenge, frame the challenge, find the solution.”

    Thanks for the advice. Have a great weekend!

  3. It is unbelievable how simple yet powerful this technique is—& how accessible you’ve made it. Instead of rumination or self-absorption, we can be our own guide in unleashing our creative juices. And you’ve shown with your practical & realistic examples how simple it is. Nicely done!

  4. Thank you for showing how we can work with the same set of conditions and yet turn it around for a more empowering perspective. I enjoyed your examples!!

    Asking ourselves the question “why” can certainly keep us stuck. A better question is “how can we do things better”.

  5. Hi JD .. just start .. and once you’re on the road – it’ll be easier, something will be done .. so true .. turn it around and get going.

    Thanks – Hilary

  6. @ Jonathan — Some shells are pretty tough. But action and determination are a dynamic duo.

    @ Jk — Thank you. I’m always amazed how much framing problems as challenges empowers us to action, in a game-like way.

    @ Vitaly — … and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    @ Jimmy — Thank you. We can be our own best guide, especially when we know ourselves well, and our questions cut deep.

    @ Evelyn — The beauty of how is it cracks the door of possibilities wide open.

    @ Chip — Pithy and timeless seems to stick.

    @ Hilary — Turning it around let’s you take the bull by the horns, and it’s amazing how many bulls aren’t so bad, once you’ve got a good grip.

  7. Hi JD,

    Excellent post! It is all about our attitude and how we interpret situations. Our focus plays a great role in finding a solution. It ia always better to separate ourselves from the situation and focus on the solution. Thanks for sharing JD

  8. J.D. This is such great advice. I loved what you said about asking better questions and changing the Why to a How. I think that is such an important thing to do and it really does allow you to manage through whatever comes your way so much better. Great post.

  9. @ Jason — I think I first saw that quote back in ’97 and it stuck with me ever since. At the time, I was especially amazed how collective thinking could crack just about any problem, if you could get the right brains teamed up.

    @ Dia — Thank you. It’s another example of how our mindsets shape our solutions.

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. Time and again I’ve seen the toughest nuts cracked when somebody changes the question or the lens.

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