How many times have we encountered a problem which seemed to have just one way to solve it?
Hanging from the roof of this rather tall, old building’s living room was a light bulb with a quaint light-shade; beautiful, except that it wouldn't light up when the switch was turned on.
Enthusiastic volunteers had tried at different times to change the bulb but it seemed as if the problem was with the wiring. ‘The wiring must have gone old and defective,’ assumed one of them, who declared that the junction wires near the roof will have to be checked someday – when the elderly lady of the house could arrange for a ladder. So every time someone would ask why this bulb didn't come on, the lady would point to the roof and explain where the problem was, adding, ‘We will first need a ladder to get there.’
One friend brought along an electrician, a grey-haired, quiet man who stood below the light shade and studied the wiring for awhile. After the usual bulb-changing trial, he proceeded to cut off the wires just above the bulb and rewired them into the bulb’s holder trying to rule out any disconnection at that junction. The bulb still didn't come on. He then went over to the switch, opened it and did the same thing – cut the wires and rewired them into the socket. The bulb came on!
What the experienced electrician did was solve the problem through elimination. He began by ruling out, one by one, the possible points where the problem could lie. However, if he had to straightaway try and get to the top with the difficulty that it presented and found no solution, we could imagine the time and effort that would have been expended and all to no avail.
Problem solving through the process of elimination and ruling out is easier when we pause to assess a situation first before coming to a final conclusion.