Problem Solving and Motivation

Throughout your student life you will no doubt face all sorts of problems, both big and small. At times you may face problems that are difficult to solve. We want to help you develop the skills you need to become an effective problem solver, even in the most challenging or difficult situations.

Low motivation

One problem you are very likely to face at some point is a lack of motivation. Motivation is goal oriented, involving both the desire to achieve an outcome and the energy required to do so. When motivation draws from our deepest passions and the things that really inspire us in life, finding the energy and determination to achieve our goals can seem effortless.

But at other times, life conspires to lead us to a slump in motivation. Specific contributing factors may be:

  • a low mark or a series of low marks
  • getting behind in your program of study
  • other responsibilities or commitments taking priority over your study
  • feeling isolated
  • study becoming irrelevant to short term or long term goals
  • a mismatch between your ideas, beliefs or interests and those you are coming into contact with
  • finding your courses difficult

Low motivation may also lead you to struggle with procrastination, so be sure to check out the specific resources we offer to help you deal with this.

Seven steps to solving any problem

Whatever your problem, the following model can be a useful approach to solving it.

Step 1. Identify the problem

Firstly you need to identify and name the problem so you can find an appropriate solution. You may not be clear on what the problem is or feel anxious or confused about what is getting in the way of your goals. Try talking to others, as this may help you identify the problem.

Step 2. Explore the problem

When you are clear about the problem, you need to think about it from different angles. Ask yourself questions like:

  • how is this problem affecting me?
  • how is it affecting others?
  • who else experiences this problem?
  • what do they do about it?

Seeing the problem in different ways is likely to help you find an effective solution.

Step 3. Set goals

Once you have thought about the problem from different angles you can identify some goals. What is it that you want to achieve? For example, do you want to:

  • Improve your health?
  • Improve your time management skills?
  • Complete your assignments to the best of your ability?
  • Finish your assignments as soon as possible?

Different goals will lead you in different directions, so working out your goals is a vital part of the problem solving process.

Step 4. Look at Alternatives

When you have decided what your goal is you need to look for possible solutions. The more solutions you can come up with, the more likely it is you will find one that works. Brainstorm for ideas to collect together a long list of possibilities. It does not matter to begin with whether the ideas are useful or manageable: just write down all ideas as they come into your head. Some of the best solutions arise from creative thinking during brainstorming. You can also seek ideas by talking to others. The aim is to collect as many alternative solutions as possible.

Step 5. Select a possible solution

From the list of possible solutions, sort out which are most relevant to your situation and which are realistic and manageable. You can do this by predicting the outcomes for the different solutions. When you have explored the consequences, use this information to identify the solution which is most relevant to you and is likely to have the best outcomes for your situation.

Step 6. Implement a possible solution

Now you are ready to put your solution into action. This may take some time and effort, so you will need energy and motivation. You can prepare yourself to implement the solution by planning when and how you will do it, whether you talk with others about it, and what rewards you will give yourself when you have done it.

Step 7. Evaluate

Just because you have implemented the best possible solution, you may not have automatically solved your problem, so evaluating the effectiveness of your solution is very important. You can ask:

  • how effective was that solution?
  • did it achieve what I wanted?
  • what consequences did it have on my situation?

If you feel dissatisfied with the result, you can take another look at the seven steps. Otherwise, well done! You’ve solved your problem.

Need further assistance?

Contact Campus Central

Your one-stop-shop for student services. UniSA general enquiries: 1300 301 703.