The Roots of the Problem

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” (African proverb)

Whenever we fail, we're tempted to over-examine the big event itself, and under-examine all the decisions we made leading up to it. For instance:

  • You blow up at your spouse in the car, arguing over directions, instead of looking at the resentment you've built up about all the little ways you feel unappreciated.

  • You flail away during a presentation at work, beating yourself up as a bad public speaker, instead of looking at how you spent too little time preparing and practicing.

  • Your kid has her first fender-bender, and you chastise her for neglecting to get pictures of the other guy’s license and insurance, instead of focusing on the fact you never led her through a similar role-play scenario when you were teaching her to drive.

Examining the incident is not nearly as important as investigating all of its roots. This is good news, because usually what came before is something we can control.

(All three of those examples are autobiographical. The only reason I’m able to talk about those failures now is because I’ve chosen to accept them, admit them, and learn from them.)

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