The book I’ve written about faith, reason and problem solving will be available at all major online book outlets, hopefully by the end of the summer. It’s called Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens and the foreword is written by Stacy Trasancos, PhD.
The book is a practical look at faith, reason and problem solving for dealing with the common realities we all face—for all things visible and invisible. When I was chosen to become the program leader and instructor for a specific kind of problem solving and decision making process for my job, I began to see commonalities between the rational processes I was learning and some of the reasoning of the various Catholic thinkers I was reading. If you think about analytical problem solving, it's about finding "truth" objectively, regardless of feelings, strong opinions, past experiences or intuition; finding truth even when empirical evidence is lacking or impossible to obtain.
Although the book is already written, I continue to come across aspects of problem solving that can relate to the spiritual life, such as this article about three habits of creative problem solvers.
HABIT #1: THEY'RE COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY
You may think a method of analytical problem solving is only about observable evidence. It is not. Most often it is physically impossible for us to obtain all the data we need or want to answer all the questions we have. In fact, I don’t remember a single instance at work when we had all the evidence we wanted at our disposal, therefore we need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.
Uncertainty can help us see things from a new perspective, but without some comfort level with uncertainly, we can become fearful and revert to a “fight-or-flight” mentality, which is detrimental to any critical thinking process. For problem solving, the “fight” instinct might lead to irrational thinking, jumping to conclusions and being overwhelmed by the scope of the mess. The “flight” instinct might cause you to give up, pass the buck or waste mental energy blaming others.
It can be similar with the spiritual life. Uncertainty about the future, all the evil in the world, all the conflicting opinions, what we should do, or who to believe, can result in a “fight-or-flight” spirituality. Fighting for your faith, or just fighting to keep your faith, without a clear understanding of it can lead to irrational thinking, jumping to conclusions and being overwhelmed by the scope of the mess. Flight from faith can be just that…giving up with a bunch of poor excuses. If you take the time to seriously study your faith, you will become more comfortable with uncertainty.
Here’s a helpful tip from the article; create certainty in the rest of your life. The more habit and ritual you create in your day to day life, the more stamina you'll have when uncertainty shows up. Have a regular prayer time each day, receive the Sacraments often (weekday Masses/confession), read spiritual books grounded in Truth, and perform corporal/spiritual works of mercy regularly. These spiritual habits will give you strength when faced with uncertainty.
HABIT #2 THEY KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO RE-FRAME SETBACKS
Failure results in negative emotions like shame, fear and frustration. As a result many of us hide it. Hiding a problem, or a failed attempt to solve it, can delay the solution and potentially make things worse.
A good problem solver will not internalize setbacks; they will learn from them and perhaps use any new data from the failed attempt for the next attempt. He or she is also humble enough to get others involved. Instead of thinking, “I failed; better make sure nobody knows” they will think, "That attempt failed; let’s learn from it."—Big difference.
Catholicism and Christianity in general is a lot about forgiveness and second chances. We are to strive for holiness, but oftentimes we are more interested in what we want than what is right or what is true, living more for ourselves than for God. Sin is essentially a refusal to let God have His way in our life, so we have setbacks. Re-frame your spiritual setbacks and learn from them. Don’t think “I failed; better make sure nobody knows.” Re-frame it; only your attempt has failed. Ask for help. Involve others. Go to confession.
HABIT #3: THEY BELIEVE THEY CAN KEEP IMPROVING
The article refers to having a "growth mind-set" rather than a “fixed mind-set”. A growth mind-set basically believes that things can get better with effort, learning and help from others. A fixed mind-set sees no way to continue. Don’t think to yourself, “I’m not smart enough to solve this problem.” Instead think, “It is not solved yet, but it can be, perhaps with new skills, knowledge or help.” Add the word "yet" to your thinking. "There is no answer, yet." or "I’m not sure what to do, yet."
The virtue of hope is needed in the spiritual life to keep us moving. "I’m not as faithful as I should be, yet." or "I’m not sure how to grow spiritually, yet." We need a growth mind-set, but what effort are we putting forth for growth? What new knowledge or skills do we require to improve? How will we seek the help we need?
The Catechism says in paragraph 1821, “In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere to the end.” We should take comfort knowing that it is always possible to grow spiritually if we understand the mystery of God as an invitation. The negative view of the term “mystery” is that we can never hope to fully understand it or prove it and we will never be perfect (fixed mind-set). The positive view says there is an inexhaustible well of truth and love from which the soul can drink with the assurance that the well will never run dry (growth mind-set).
"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us."