Monday, October 12, 2009

Who 'Owns" the Problem

"Who owns the problem"? Great question to ask yourself when you are looking at making changes in your life.

My wife Kathy gave me this little nugget years ago when we were both working with "Youth at Risk" populations. The majority of the kids we were working with came from families with challenges and the kids were left with a "lens" to look at the world with that sometimes was distorted. This "lens" allowed them to only look at the world in one way. They didn't have the skills to adjust the "lens" and brings things into focus or put things in a new perspective allowing them to make what "Society" deemed a "good decision". In our work with the teens our focus was largely on helping them make the "transition" to independent living. The youth didn't have the basic skill sets needed to successfully navigate life on their own. The majority of the kids had many problems which needed to be addressed, things like meeting basic health care needs, education, finances, drug and alcohol counseling, parole requirements and the like.

One of the constant themes that kept appearing with the teens we serviced was their ability to separate what was in their perceived control and what was not. This is where the "Nugget" of "Who owns the problem" is especially valuable. Take this example -

A teens teeth are rotting and they about to lose a few of them to tooth decay. This teen has a fear of dentists that goes way back to an isolated bad experience as a young child. This teen hates dentists and refuses to go because of the one bad experience. The dentists he says are the problem. Really...? Suck it up Princess because here is the reality. His lack of concern over his own health care has led to his teeth rotting out. If he doesn't do the steps needed to save them he will have a toothy grin until he finally goes to a dentist for some oral cosmetic surgery to get some fake teeth in the place of the holes. This is his reality. He believes the dentists are the problem. He thinks they own it and that he is just a victim of the problem cycle. A cog in the wheel. What in fact is the reality is that he "Owns the problem". He is feeding it. He is continually "stoking the fire" and giving it life. If he simple acknowledged the fact that yes he did have an isolated incident with a dentist and yes he did have one bad experience he could then "let go of the problem" and find appropriate solutions.

I have spoken to thousands of individuals who are trying to become better leaders, parents, teachers or business owners. When I speak about "Who owns the Problem" it is amazing to see the reactions. It is like a light bulb goes on in their heads. The majority of people in the room immediately either realize that they can "give a problem away and refuse to own it" or that they really do "Own a problem" and can now take the steps needed to solve it.

If I asked you right now to think of the problems in your life what would you come up with. I know you can do this. Stop reading this and take 1 minute and THINK...what problems do you have in your life right now... Come back after a minute and read.

Ok, what did you come up with. I bet you came up with 1 BIG PROBLEM and a few little problems. Anyone come up with Finances, Health or Relationships? No surprise there. You are not alone. These 3 problem areas show up almost universally when asked a similarly worded question. The challenge for you now is to look at the problems you identified and decide whether you want to "Own it" or "Give it away".

If you are looking at making changes in your life you will have to seek out where the "problem" areas are. There is no going forward unless you clearly identify and "OWN" those area where you are stuck. If you don't OWN it, let it go. Let someone else carry that weight around with them. Let them carry the problem which you so graciously have been carrying. Remember before you can make any substantial change you must let go of what has held you back in the past.

I have a visual trick that I use and have shared with others over the years and I call it my "Backpack Theory". Look at your friends, peers, family members and coworkers. Think of them all walking around with an invisible "Backpack" on. You can see the Backpack but they can't. How heavy is it? How full is it? How big is it? What problems do you see them filling it up with? I know that when I first stumbled on to this visual I was carrying a backpack so big and full that I could hardly lift it. It dwarfed me. Thank goodness I was so strong and had enough endurance to carry a pack that big and heavy for so long. YEAH was killing me. I was so worried about "Managing" the weight I was carrying that I couldn't concentrate on anything else. I just needed to keep plodding on and slowly moving forward. You can't imagine the relief I felt when I realized that I could stop and take the pack off. I could even go further and open up that pack and decide what I wanted to "Own' and what I wanted to get rid of. It was unbelievable the difference it made. Here I was with all this stuff in my "Backpack" that I had been picking up and throwing inside. Some of the stuff I had been carrying around for years and never did I even imagine that I could take it out, let alone give it away.

STOP... At some point today take the time and take your "Backpack" off. Have a look inside and figure out what have you been carrying around that you can get rid of. What can you take out and never have to worry about again. What "Problem" inside of that Backpack do you not have to OWN. I guarantee you will be stepping lighter once you do this.

As always I welcome any comments and thoughts. If you are finding "The 365" interesting pass me on a note, make a comment and pass on this blog on to others. Spread "The 365 Effect".

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