3 Steps to Mindful Problem Solving

When it comes to solving life problems there’s a simple concept I learned about years ago that helps me make mindful decisions. As simple as it is in theory, it can be challenging to apply it when I have so many years of practice making knee-jerk decisions or spending too much time over-thinking my options.

Fortunately, as with all things in life, I always have the choice to reassess my situation and make a different decision- even if I’m already headed down a path that’s not working out so well for me, and I can apply these 3 steps to mindful problem solving.

3 Steps to Mindful Problem Solving

The 3 steps to mindful problem solving are awareness, acceptance, action. Easy, right? Or maybe you’re thinking, ” how does it work?”

01. Awareness

There are many different ways I become aware of a problem. Usually, however, I don’t always realize there IS a problem at first. I struggle with an idea, a relationship, or situation for a while without realizing I’ve been caught up in the problem. I’m not really thinking objectively about it, I’m reacting to it in the moment. Am I the only one that does this? Maybe you realize there’s a problem right away.

Once you become aware of the problem you can ask yourself this question to gain clarity about the problem.

“What isn’t working?”

02. Acceptance

Acceptance is the hardest step for me because when I become aware of a problem my awareness of the problem is emotionally-charged. I’m angry, hurt, frustrated, confused, etc. If I try to jump from awareness to action, the 3rd step, then my action is often misinformed by my emotions.

What acceptance means to me is I am able to see the problem for what it really is, without my emotions and judgments altering what I see. I may acknowledge my emotions and judgments but recognize they are just some of the information I need to consider in solving the problem. I ask myself the following question.

“What’s my truth?”


03. Action

Of the 3 steps action is the easiest for me because as soon as I’ve reached acceptance, I’m not making a knee-jerk or fear-based decision and I’m not afraid of what the outcome of my action will be. When I have awareness and acceptance I know I am making a thoughtful, honest, inspiring, necessary, and kind choice.

When it comes to action, I THINK.

“Is my action Thoughtful, Honest, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind?”

The 3 A’s in action!

When I started thinking about writing this post I really wanted to come up with an example to share. Even though I use these concepts, also called the 3 A’s, regularly, I couldn’t come up with an example. I started to get frustrated with myself and thought about writing something else and then it hit me. Why not apply the 3 A’s to my current problem.

Awareness: I couldn’t come up with a professional example that respected other people’s stories. (I wouldn’t want to discuss a business situation or relationship involving other people on the internet without careful consideration!)

Acceptance: I was frustrated with myself for not being able to think of an example to share with you and I had decided, without realizing it, that I this post wouldn’t be as effective without an example so I just shouldn’t write about it. Wow, talk about judgment!

Action: I decided to write the post anyway! Oh, and applying these steps to my problem actually gave me an example to use!

How many times have you found yourself struggling with some simple problem or decision that probably isn’t that important but you struggle all the same? My example may or may not be one you can relate to but hopefully you can apply it to a situation in your life where you struggled over a problem, even if it wasn’t a big one, and how you can be more mindful in your problem-solving approach!

I love your comments! Have you ever used the 3 A’s to solve a problem? Do you think these 3 steps can help you be more thoughtful about approaching problems in your life?

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  1. As always, actionable steps to take if we need something done Chrysta!

    I agree with what you’ve shared here as well if you’re aware that you have a problem. Liz did mention that there are times that we aren’t aware that it even is a problem but I don’t think I have as many of those moments as I use to.

    So I guess I’ll have to say thank you for writing this post anyway and it sounds like it was of great help after all. Don’t you just love that when that happens?

    You always make things seem so simple to do Chrysta so I thank you for that. Hope you’re enjoying your week and looking forward to the weekend. Have a good one okay!


    • Isn’t it great when you can look back and realize how much progress you’ve made? I love that! Getting older and wiser is awesome in my book! 😉

      Thanks so much for your cheerful (as always) comment, Adrienne! Have a fantastic weekend!


  2. Hi Chrysta,

    This is not my first time here, you may or may not remember me :)

    I think that when one has a problem the first two steps are exactly as you mentioned – being aware that we have such problem, and accept it. Yet, that’s not enough.

    For example, I have a client who is aware that he has a serious marital problem, and has definitely come to grip with it (admitting it’s there), but he refuses to take any action one way or another. So Once we know and accept the fact that we have some type of problem in our lives, we must take some type of action to remove it.

    That would be my two cents on that :)

    • Welcome back, Sylvaine! It’s lovely to see you again.

      I have found all three steps are necessary to make positive change in our lives. I, personally, do not have problem with the action part but I do know others that struggle with action. I think that’s where our fears really come into play- frozen in indecision about what to do or unable to take the action we know is right because it might not work out the way we wanted.

      At one point in my life I almost stayed in a job that wasn’t working out for me out of fear of being unable to find a good job but I realized I was already miserable at my job so I didn’t have much to lose if it worked out I was miserable in a different situation. I left the job and- guess what- I wasn’t miserable at all! It all worked out just fine! I’m glad I didn’t put up with a miserable situation just to avoid something that may or may not happen.

      Have a grateful day!


  3. Simply powerful and practical, Chrysta. Starting with awareness is vital but then doing something with the awareness gained. This is an essential step forward with mindful practices. Thanks! Jon

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon! Awareness is a great tool to use in almost any situation in life- it’s the different between just muddling through and living a purposeful life!

      Have a grateful day!


  4. I don’t know whether I have any problems right now. Everything seems to be working fine (Sure, I do procrastinate a bit with commenting, but at the end of the day, I get things done. And I find procrastination just as helpful as productive work).

    I do worry about somethings though – I am waiting for a reply from the university I have applied (I am trying to transfer from a college, so the process is a bit different).

    But, things will end up in a nice manner. I like to keep an optimistic mind 😉 If it doesn’t, I can always intervene and change what I don’t like :)

    Thank you for sharing your strategy, Chrysta. Hope you have a good weekend!

    • You have an awesome outlook that I just love, Jeevan! Life is never perfect, but no matter what is going on it can be good if that’s how you choose to see it. As you said, everything will work out okay- no matter what happens so why worry? You can change what you don’t like.

      Thanks for sharing your positive perspective! Have a grateful day!


      • Glad you like it, Chrysta :)

        I believe in possibilities, so a small part of my mind does believe that things may not end up nicely. But, I like to believe in the “more hopeful” options. It is good to maintain hope, right? Makes life interesting 😀

        No mention, Chrysta! Hope you are having a great weekend!

  5. Hi Chrysta,

    I’m a little like Liz there and have a tough time where awareness is concerned. I think accepting that there IS a problem in hand is the easy part for me, and thereafter the action of course to solve it out.

    Some issues just crop up from nowhere or when you least expect them, or perhaps when you are never prepared for them, yet you go ahead and handle them, which is when you need to first accept that there is a problem and solve it out. At other times you become too emotional to take any kind of action and might just time heal the problem, if it’s more of a personal one, though ideally you shouldn’t do that and all problems should be handled and solved, but we can never say how and what we feel and it depends a lot of the kind of problem.

    Thanks for sharing and making us think on this one. Have a nice weekend :)

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Harleena!

      Now that you and Liz have mentioned it I can look back and see there are plenty of times I was faced with a problem I didn’t realize was a problem! I know I can get caught up in what’s going on that I don’t always stop and think about the situation objectively and/or I make quick assessments based on prior experiences or judgments without really considering what’s really going on. I find I’m less likely to recognize a problem for what it is if I already think I have a solution.

      I appreciate your insights! Have a grateful day!


  6. Hi Chrysta,

    These are definitely the steps to good problem solving, but some problems are tougher than others when it comes to awareness.

    I know for myself something can be a problem and I just don’t recognize it as such, so awareness is sometimes the toughest step. How many of us have a problem of one kind or anther and just never come to accept that it’s a problem? I think we’ve all been there.

    Ah …and then there’s taking action. Again, it’s often the type of problem because many problems leave us paralyzed, we just don’t know what to do to solve them. Emotions often keep up from taking action and that can be tough. So I can see how important acceptance is, we have to see the problem objectively and logically, without emotion.

    Problem solving can be tough. Just look at all the problems the world has that never seem to get resolved. But having a mindset to work though them certainly helps and your post is a good start.

    Thanks Chrysta :-)


    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Liz!

      You’re so right- some problems are so much tougher than others. Even using these steps I sometimes spend weeks or months getting from one step to the next when it comes to really big life stuff.

      Acceptance is the hardest step for me, but even still I, too, have struggled coming to awareness. It seems strange to think we can be struggling with a problem and not accept it as a problem, isn’t it?

      Using these steps hasn’t solved all my problems but it certainly does help me work through them more thoughtfully and with greater patience!

      Have a grateful day!