Problems vs. Solutions: get unstuck

I love having tools at the ready in my toolkit.

Sometimes the simplest tools are the best. They let you get in, get what you need, and get on with life.

So here’s a tool I rely on to sift through mental clutter, gain insight into the crux of the matter, and then move forward.

I use this when I’m overwhelmed or stuck. It can also come in handy when you just need to do a quick check-in with yourself.

It consists of three simple questions:

  • What?
  • So what?
  • Now what?


What’s going on? What’s the issue? Stick to the facts and avoid judgment or interpretation. Don’t be tempted to put a spin on things when answering this question. Keep this to a short description of the issue. This is your observation.

So what?

What are the implications of what’s going on? What do these facts mean to you? Why does it matter? What exactly matters? What are you realizing? What conclusions are emerging? This is your analysis.

Now what?

What actions make sense? How will you turn your insights into action? What needs to happen? Based on your interpretation of the facts and their implications, what’s next? How will you use what you’ve learned? This is your proposed action.

Get unstuck: Let’s take a real-life example.

What? I’m conflicted about saying “yes” to a speaking opportunity.

  • The engagement involves travel during a busy time and the topic is one I’m less excited about.
  • The engagement would mean high visibility with a solid potential for one-on-one coaching clients to follow.

So what? The very fact that I’m conflicted about the opportunity means it’s not a resounding “yes”. Since reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, I’m committed to only saying “yes” to opportunities and requests that feel like a 9 or 10. I’m realizing this opportunity feels like a 4 or 5.

Now what? It makes sense to say “no”. My next step is to call my contact and decline the offer. I plan to use what I’ve learned from this dilemma to have more clarity—sooner—when a similar situation arises.

I could have gotten to the same answer any number of ways. But I’ve found asking What? So what? Now what? helps me get there faster, easier, and with less overthinking.

Is there a place in your toolkit for What? So What? Now What? Could this model help you get a handle on a decision or dilemma?