Solving problems can be thought of as tinkering with a problem. In order to keep trying to determine what will work to solve a particular problem or get around an obstacle, we need to be able to tolerate the frustration that comes from trying a solution and then failing. We need to be capable of going down blind alleys and hitting dead ends. People who stick with solving their problems are able to tolerate the frustration of repeatedly failing and are able to accept themselves even when they fail. They do not think “I cannot stand the frustration of failing; I have to find the solution quickly.” As they continue to search they refuse to think “I am stupid because I have not yet discovered what works for this problem.”
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) can help people who when faced with a problem tend to give up too soon. REBT builds grit which is the ability to stay with a problem over the long run. REBT helps people identify the specific beliefs the individual holds which blocks them from tinkering to solve their problem. REBT also teaches you specific alternative beliefs which can be adopted which will help you tinker, tinker, tinker until you find what works to solve the difficult problem you are facing.
I have found that it is important to hold the following REBT rational beliefs when tinkering to solve a problem:
1. I wish I could determine the solution to this problem quickly and easily but I do not have to do so.
2. The fact that I have to tinker some more to solve my problem never means I am a stupid person. It only means that thus far I have not discovered what works to solve this problem.
3. It is frustrating to try to solve a problem a few times and not experience success. I do not like this feeling of frustration and temporary defeat but I can stand it. I do not have to upset myself over being blocked in the pursuit of a solution. It will help me to imagine how good success will feel if I persist and ultimately find a solution.
4. Taking a rest for a few hours or overnight might be helpful to give my mind a rest and to help me unwind from the frustration I feel. After a period of time away from the problem I will feel rejuvenated and will again start to tinker to solve my problem. Perhaps after time away from the solution a new thing to try will occur to me. Resting my mind may very well help but quitting forever will surely lead to permanent defeat.
5. It is best not to have a pre-determined number of trials in mind that “should” be required to solve a problem. There is no law of the universe that solving a particular problem should take the number of attempts that I think it should require. If I believe a problem should only take five attempts I will not make the sixth attempt to solve the problem and it may very well be the sixth attempt that works.
All of us have experienced the tension and frustration that comes from failed efforts to solve a problem. REBT is an approach and a philosophy which will help you build the necessary tolerance for tinkering away until you discover the solution to your problem. Remember you never have to disturb yourself when you make an attempt to solve a problem and your attempt meets with failure. You can choose to feel healthy negative feelings of displeasure which will motivate you to keep testing new ways to solve your problem. Persistence prevails when all else fails and REBT philosophy will keep you persisting.