# 60 on my, 99 Life Tips – A List is: You cannot solve any problem without having a clear picture of the solution in mind. Ask, ”what would it look like fixed?” borrowed from David Allen.
Because this is one of my favorite questions, and has been so life-changing for me, I secured the domain whatwoulditlooklikefixed.com a few years ago, where I will eventually build out a self-help site based around this idea. I’m happy to share it here with you.
I was introduced to the concept in David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I highly recommend the book if you want to dive deeper into the whole system of personal productivity and time management Allen espouses.
Answering what would it look like fixed has become the starting point of my entire problem-solving heuristic.
The premise is simple. A problem arises. You want to fix it. So far, so good…
But fixing problems requires answers to two questions:
1- What is the true problem? (This is a book in its own right)
2- What would absence of the problem look like, or conversely, what would it look like fixed?
Until you answer these two questions problems manifest will remain problems unsolved
How often have you set out to fix a problem without first discovering what was really bothering you, or having a definite, clear idea of what needed to happen to not feel bothered by it anymore? If you’ve done this, you know how frustrating it can be to multiply effort using the wrong means for the wrong ends with no clear plan. (Which probably describes the typical workday of millions of people). And maybe this too accurately describes normal life for a lot of people as well.
So, since you certainly want to avoid adding frustration to the feelings you already have about your issue. Do the hard work, the meaningful work, up front. The hard work is actually mental, involving thinking and imagination. You’re creating a world where your problem doesn’t exist. In this world, you vanquished the burden. It’s gone. Exterminated. Kaput.
This picture gives you both a target state to achieve and the inspiration to achieve it. Don’t worry yet on what will have to happen to make this vision come to pass. That’s another part of the problem-solving process. Without a clearly defined destination, further steps in the process are tantamount to walking in circles.
From Concept to Concrete
This is how, precisely how, all the man-made reality that you look around you and see, gets from concept to concrete. Things go from abstract idea to tangible reality by answering some variation of this one question.
What would it look like fixed?
If you want to solve a problem and don’t have this idea clearly in mind, how will you know when you’re done? How will you gauge success at eliminating the problem. Do you see the dilemma? Unless you can clearly state, in specific language, ”This problem will be fixed when ______________.” happens, all efforts will amount to pushing in the clutch on a car, stomping the accelerator, and redlining the engine in a screaming cloud of smoke and fury, but the car goes nowhere.
Instead, do the hard work up front. Get a clear picture of exactly what fixed would look like, then use the appropriate means to reach that desired end. (A subject for another day).