One of the keys to personal strength is the ability to confront your own issues – both mental and in the real world. When you really look at a problem, you can start understanding the root of why it is happening. Sometimes that means you have to stop making excuses. Sometimes it means you have to look at yourself more than the problem.
Over the years as we live life we develop defensive mechanisms. They are intended to protect us from being hurt in the same way we were before. Generally they are good. For example, after touching a hot stove you never do it again. But sometimes they can cause us a lot of pain. For example:
As a child, you might have learned that if you were loud and angry you got a treat at the grocery store. Or if you didn’t talk about some toy you liked to play with, other kids wouldn’t make fun of you anymore. As time went on, you realized this worked for more things. Want a cookie for dessert? Throw a tantrum. Want to fit in? Just do what the other kids seem to like. Over time, getting a treat at the grocery store didn’t matter any more, and neither did that toy. But the mechanism was so practiced, it already became a part of how you naturally interact in your life. Now you know how to push someone’s buttons to get what you want. Or maybe you don’t open up to people until you really get to know them because you’re afraid of what they might think. Everyone has something.
At this point these actions are second nature. But as we all know, bullying our way through something usually causes collateral damage. Ignoring issues usually makes them bigger. It’s hard to find people who appreciate us for who we are when we hide it from them. And the biggest problem is that we often don’t even realize we’re doing it. This is one reason Week 4 (Awareness & Choice) is so important. If we can take a step back and see our internal motivations for what they are, we have the power to choose a different way. All of a sudden people can’t prey on your insecurities to get what they want because you can manage what they’re doing to you. You can begin overcoming fears because now you actually know what’s holding you back. By identifying these root causes and working on them you give yourself strength. You simplify your world.
Root cause is also important in everyday problem solving. Just like treating symptoms does not always cure a disease, it’s important to take the time to understand the problems we encounter. A lot of the time we just want it to go away. So we try to ignore it, or do something that stops the part that is affecting us right now. A lot of people like to blame other people for the problem. These are big reasons for why we have so much reactive legislation and short-term fixes. But the problems keep coming back. And they will keep coming back until we actually do something about the root causes.
Finally, once you have this in mind it makes you much more adept at interacting with others. You can gain insight into the underlying motivation behind why people are acting a certain way. It might not be you at all, it could be them reacting to something internally. You don’t have to take things as personally anymore.
There are three primary pieces that enable you to start identifying root cause solutions:
- Taking the time to step back and really think about the issue. Do not attack it. Understand it.
- Admitting to yourself that you could be part of the issue. Take responsibility. Factor yourself in.
- Accepting that if there is something you can do about it, you should do it and not expect others to do it for you.
Here is a good example of a root cause solution: Treating Violence Like a Communicable Disease
- Pick a problem you are encountering. It could be a simple problem, or a larger personal issue.
- Ask yourself “Why?” it is happening and write down the response
- Ask yourself “Why?” your response is happening
- Repeat 5 times
- Think of 3 things you can do to improve the final “Why?” response
- Use your Week 4 (Awareness) skills to really tune in to a consistent problem you have. Maybe you always get nervous in front of people. Maybe you have a very short temper. Maybe you don’t know how to say no. Be open about it and see how honest you can be with yourself (Week 1).
- Try to put yourself in the situation that causes the undesirable behavior. Really tune in to how you feel and how you react.
- Recreate the situation in your head. Why do you feel the way you do? Are you afraid of something? Really want something?
- Apply the Beginner “Why?” sequence above to your answer.