I happened upon an interesting principle that understood and properly applied, can make life much easier. This principle became obvious during a recent horseback riding lesson while working on my trot-canter upward transition. Without boring you with the details, the principle I learned or perhaps better put, rediscovered, is this: the solution does not always lie at the level of the obvious problem, symptom or deficiency.
Having considered something akin to this in my recent post on my company’s blog http://tinyurl.com/3yf9m95, I feel it is “in the air” and therefore worthy of further consideration. Our medical system offers a fine example of what happens when this principle is ignored.
The present system, which could be summarized as the “find-it-and-fix-it” approach, tends to downplay or even ignore the larger context in which the problem is set. A headache, for instance, is often treated with aspirin, and little attention is given to what might be the cause behind the headache. By focusing on the symptom, medical practitioners who work in a highly specialized system often fail to see the forest for the trees.
An equestrian can also easily succumb to this pitfall if he or she is not careful. In the situation I mentioned earlier, the symptom was the horse tending to drop down on his inside shoulder. Focus too much attention on that shoulder and the rider risks missing the many other factors that come into play to bring about the right balance (hind leg impulsion, maintaining the outside side, the rider’s position, etc.).
To live effectively you must view your world holistically. To the degree that your life is compartmentalized and not operating according to a unifying theme, you run the risk of competing elements and as we looked at before, a house divided is not sustainable. Likewise, if you tend to focus or worse, fixate on the things that are not working properly in your life, you will miss the proverbial forest for the trees.
An uncle of mine once used an analogy that has stuck with me for years. If you are driving on a mountain pass and your brakes fail, the worse thing you can do is to focus all of your attention on the failure and to pump the brake pedal obsessively. You need to look up, determine the best path to slow down, stay calm enough to think logically about ways to slow and stop the disabled vehicle. Sitting at my desk I can think of a few ways: drive gently into the bank and use friction to slow down, try the parking brake, downshift, and so on. Anything is better than going over the cliff and suffering a total loss. There are almost always more options than you might think initially.
Another complicating factor in this is that people love to identify a “single-point” scapegoat for just about any problem. Scientists and other interest groups have been desperately seeking to point the finger at a single-point cause for the recent “colony collapse disorder” that has decimated the honey-bee population in North America. This disorder could have a large impact on our food supply, so the problem and the interest in its resolution are real, yet trying to focus on one element, such as the proliferation of power lines, certain pesticides, or other favorite suspects is unlikely to provide a holistic enough approach to reverse the trend.
Where does this leave us this morning? Well, first of all, when you experience a challenge or a problem in your life (it happens, believe me, I saw it on TV once or twice), don’t immediately jump to conclusions about why it happened, who is responsible and what their punishment should be. Take the time necessary to understand the problem in its larger context.
As yourself: what factors are at play, who are the stakeholders and who can help find a solution? These are excellent questions that will help you resolve any issue. Furthermore, always leave room for the fact that your perception may be skewed or incomplete. It never hurts to approach these matters with humility.
The world’s problems are rarely simple anymore and in many cases, neither are the individuals problems that each one of us faces from day-to-day. Our world is more interdependent than ever and determining cause requires persistence, equanimity and a keen eye and ear for the not-so-obvious.
Take care of the world you center in a new and more balanced way today. It will make a difference.