A man is on a journey to the mountain top for enlightenment. He finds himself on one side of a wide and deep lake. He looks around, builds himself a raft and gets across dry and safe. So pleased with himself and his problem solving, he straps that raft to his back and continues his climb. Although he finds nary a lake, river, stream or creek, he does not let go of the raft. The raft is heavy, cumbersome and slows him way down on his road to enlightenment.
Adapted from a Buddhist tale.
Here's what we do people, we find one fabulous way to solve a problem and then we do that over and over and over. We keep lugging our metaphorical raft, in spite of the fact there are tools that are more nimble, efficient, use less effort and are more effective. Do you spot your particular raft from the list below?
(I group them in pairs because I have found if we do one, we usually AVOID the other. In times of stress we do even MORE of the one and stay FURTHER AWAY from the other. A better, saner, more effective solution usually lies somewhere in-between our go to and our must avoid.)
NICE / MEAN - If we want something we over nice people to get our way. We nice, and nice, and do favors and are kind, and extend ourselves, all thinking that one day all those people we have been nice to will repay us in niceness (or good grades, or affection, or clearing the dishwasher, or picking up after themselves, or admiration, or a bonus). We are extra nice if we feel totally devastated and hurt. Alternately - if we want something we are aggressive and mean to get our way. If we are hurt we cut off ties of communication, cloak ourselves in righteousness. We yell and scream and think people will do what we want because we are so superior and scary.
WORK HARDER / PROCRASTINATE: If we have a problem we work harder, we burn the midnight oil, we dig in, we try and try and try. We add more hours to the task, we give up pleasure and exercise and fun because if we work harder we can solve the problem. We focus 174% on the PROBLEM. Alternately, we pretend the problem isn't there and we procrastinate. We'll surf the internet until we feel like working on our problem (hah!). We avoid, we deny, we pretend the problem doesn't exist. We take a break, we relax - HEY, we deserve it, it's such a BIG problem after all.
GO IT ALONE / HIRE HELP: If we have a problem we feel a slight sense of shame for having a problem and we go it alone. We become a one person research team to figure it all out on our own. We don't ask for help, we don't let people know we need help. We only like the perfect versions of ourself so we white knuckle our way, we act like an expert, we don't MOVE until we have all the answers, got it figured out, know our final destination. Alternately, we hire people, coaches, gurus, buy books, join seminars, listen to podcasts, consider alternatives and talk and talk and talk. We figure if we purchase a coach then we can go back to relaxing because that investment should just grow and multiply and solve the problem on its own.
What's your poison? What's your go to raft? Let's take a minute and look at the actual terrain we are on, unstrap the raft off our back, give ourselves a break and try something new.