“Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem.”
I was talking to my kid about this earlier this morning during our run. I was acknowledging how I can still get caught fighting against something that’s going on in my life, as if pushing against it is what will somehow make it better. I was also acknowledging how I was remembering, moment by moment at times, that sometimes fighting against a challenge I’m facing can make the challenge worse. I know there are instances when I/we need to fight a challenge. And I know there are times when I/we need to let things be and not push so hard.
For me, the greatest challenge can be in figuring out which reaction to my problems and challenges will help me move through or forward, and which reaction to my problems is the problem itself.
I do believe in handling problems and facing issues. I coach clients (and friends and family…and myself) to have the tough conversations and to take care of what needs to be taken care of. However, unless I’ve taken time to accept the situation as it is and to reflect on how I’m helping or hurting the situation, my impulse to push through something often backfires. Unless I take time to question (and answer) what I may need from a relationship, and to – more often than not – be gentle with myself for being someplace I don’t want to be or for being stuck in a way I don’t want to be stuck, my drive to handle and face and have tough conversations is often counterproductive. I often make things worse.
My reaction to whatever problem I’m facing is often the actual problem. Or at least it often exacerbates the problem.
Which is why, as I remind myself and explain to clients, the first thing I usually need to handle and face is myself. I need to, again, see how I’m fueling any flames. I need to face how my pushing against – and refusing to accept – whatever I’m experiencing may be, in fact, the real problem I’m experiencing. I need to be willing to own up to how I’m helping…and how I’m hurting.
I need to be able to pull back enough to have an objective view – or to talk with a colleague, friend or coach to help me get an objective view. I need to acknowledge my reaction to my problem and to figure out how to handle that first.
How are your reactions helping or hurting?
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