What’s the Problem?

30 03 2011

How many times in your life have you realized you were not getting the right answer to a problem because you were not asking the right question?  It happened to me last Friday. I went from the frustration of chasing my tail around a false premise to “why didn’t I see this sooner,” in a split second and it got me wondering . . .

How often have I approached an issue from the same direction, assuming I have not yet found what must surely be the next step in solving the riddle, when I should have tried a different route from the start?  What a waste of time and effort it is to retrace unproductive steps without even considering whether there is a different and perhaps better path.

We maintain routines, habits, so it is easy to make the same moves, think the same thoughts, when we face a familiar, but stubborn, problem.  We can rehash and reprise the same old tired worthless “possible solutions,” hoping if we repeat them often enough, loudly enough, something will give.  Truth is, if we really want to answer the tough questions, we need to make the uncomfortable move outside our patterns. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating re-framing of every issue.  If my kiln suddenly shuts down, I will check the wall plug, then the GFCI, then the breaker box – some routines are good because they yield successful resolution of a problem.  I am saying I will try to approach the ongoing, annoying, energy-draining issues in my life by asking myself a new question about them.

Who’d have thought an old college marketing class would have really been a philosophy lesson?  Dr. Advertising Professor admonished, “It’s not ¼ inch drill bits the guy wants – it’s ¼ inch holes.”  I want to understand what the ¼” holes are, instead of cussing the drill bits for being the wrong size, broken, or missing from the toolbox. Why do I need them?  How will they advance my project? Would some other configuration give me a better result?

Sometimes, instead of trying to move it, tunnel through it, or blast it to pieces, it is better to just detour around that boulder in the road – especially if what you really need is just to get to the other side. The goals should define the issues. I am going stop focusing on the problems; I am going to focus on the goals.

.  .  .  and if that doesn’t work, tomorrow is another day. 

RIP Liz Taylor.

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One response

30 03 2011
Paul Grecian

This is just plain smart!

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