The problem is almost never the problem.

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And the answer is almost never the answer.

Many of the problems we feel and the issues we raise are external to us. It’s my workplace, this group I’m a part of, my boss, my leader. And the answers are equally external. If they or it would just be different, than everything would be better.

External things are rarely the problem.

Now, it’s not that there aren’t problems in organizations that need to be solved or problems that leaders need to address. But they are almost never what causes us to feel that angst about where things are at. Organizations aren’t perfect and they’re never going to be perfect.

I know this from experience. I’ve been a part of organizations, I’ve pointed out their problems, been frustrated with their leaders, and I’ve been the leader responsible for the problems.

In fact, in what might be a rare experience, I’ve been a newcomer at an organization, then a committed member of the same organization, a staff member of the same organization, then disillusioned with that organization and critical of its leaders, and then made the leader of that organization and, naturally, a recipient of the same criticisms that I had levelled.

That brings perspective.

The problems I had turned out to be my own.

An organization, of any kind, is a movement of human beings putting their energy together to create and accomplish something that they couldn’t have alone. Organizations are dynamic and they are always in a process of change — just like you and I. And that process of change requires adjustments and corrections everyday to keep the ship pointed at its destination. These kinds of problems in organizations are normal and should be understood and embraced.

Organizations that make a difference are made up of people that have embraced this simple fact.

The problem is that we, unwilling to deal with the problem, direct our anxiety and attention to external problems in organizations and other people that then help us to forget about the problem.

It’s unfortunate because we can live from this posture for a lifetime and never find the transformation our hearts long for and that the people around us would benefit from.

Since we’re focused on the wrong problem, the solutions we provide are equally irrelevant. Like our problems, our solutions are almost always external. How do we make this organization more like that organization? How do we get more training, less problems, and more certainty? We change jobs, and then again, and then again, thinking that our problems and their answers are external and circumstantial. But, they’re not. The problem is not.

Out with the old, in with the new. And then out with what used to be new, in with what used to be old. Round and round we go.

This is almost always what we do.

Time goes by and we either drift into a fog of cynicism or we fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve found the answer by changing our circumstances. But if we have not solved the problem, sooner or later the balloon will pop. The problem won’t go away by addressing external problems, and even though it may fade for a while, it will arise again.

And this is why most organizations and people are the same. Different styles, different purposes, different sizes… same frustrations. A bunch of people ignorant of the problem and pointing the finger at anything and anyone for any reason.

That’s a ride that will spin and spin and spin until we decide to get off and face the problem.

Me.

The problem was never the situation, never the boss, never the leader. The problem, the one that aches and causes us pain on bad days and that we ignore on good days, was never about anything or anyone but me.

It doesn’t mean a situation, a boss, or a leader, can’t be a problem, but they’re almost never the problem.

Again, this isn’t about you. It’s about me.

The problem is highly sensitive. Some people and organizations press on it and it drives us crazy, while some people and organizations bring it comfort — until they no longer do.

The problem lies inside of you and it lies inside of me. And when it is acknowledged, accepted, and surrendered, external problems are transformed into opportunities. We find ourselves no longer trying to get somewhere else, but at rest with a feeling of being at home right here and right now. In this place, compassion flows freely and peace becomes our operating system.

Now, the problem is not always exactly the same for each person but it’s always inside and it feels like the inability to rest, to accept, and to let go. It’s root is in an experience of alienation, an emptiness, a disappointment and sadness that’s difficult to pinpoint and more difficult to shake.

The point is simple.

Life is too short to waste our time fighting battles that won’t win the war. It’s too short to waste our time finding irrelevant answers to the wrong questions.

The problem lies inside, not out. Change yourself and everything else will change.


Hi, I’m Michael and this is my daily project where I write about diverse ideas.

This is Dose #101.

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