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Why so glum? Oh, it’s Monday. That’s right. Those gosh darn Mondays. Ah, I got it. I hereby proclaim today to be Sniffleday. There you go, no more Mondays. You’re welcome. Now what, you’re still depressed? So it’s not Mondays that suck, it’s your job you hate, it’s the traffic you abhor, it’s the ungrateful kids that you raised, and all the fear, doubt, and worry you get to experience EVERY day.
What do you suppose would happen if were to focus on the root cause and not blame some innocent day? By the way, what else do you hate only by association?
The dirt: I hate Mondays / I have a case of the Mondays
No you don’t. You probably don’t even know the origin of the concept of Monday. It’s original translation from Latin meant “Day of the Moon.” Why hate something you don’t even understand, especially related to the moon? By the way, what else do you hate by ignorant association and without proper cause?
Isn’t it a futile effort to fix effects? It’s not that we can’t fix them temporarily, it’s that it ultimately is an absurd undertaking. For example, if you’re outside in the rain and are getting wet, how crazy would it be to try to dry yourself? After all, the most inconvenient part of the situation is that you’re wet, so why not fix the fact that you’re wet by trying to dry the water? Obviously, it would make more sense to fix the root cause first before attacking the effect. Get out of the rain and then dry yourself off. It seems so obvious when the scenario is so simple. Yet with respect to those areas we hold most dear, we seem to revert back to the idiocy of fixing effects and ignoring root causes.
Cursing the unblameable effect is like arguing with the rain because you don’t want to get wet.
Consider a few scenarios where we often see our misplaced ire:
He makes me so mad. Is that truly possible? Can anyone cause an emotion in you that you don’t allow to happen? It might seem that it is possible, but what if we must allow someone to make us mad? Imagine the root cause of our anger being a personal insecurity that got pushed too far, an over dependence on another’s opinion of us, or just us choosing to have a bad day.
I have a money problem. Can money be the root cause of anything? Isn’t money the result of what we do, the effect of our actions? How is it then we get it backwards, thinking that money shows up and causes us to do something? If you don’t have enough money, consider that there might a root cause (your mindset, actions, and attitude) that have created a process by which you are not receiving the money you desire (we’ll save the proof for another episode)
These clothes make me look fat. Yes, I’m married and yes I’m going there. I’ll keep it short though. No set of garbs can make you look fat. You can only look fat if you have fat that makes you look fat.
We have a choice on how to approach any issue. We can choose to look at the root cause or look at the effect. The latter induces a sense of victimhood. Nobody likes to experience bad effects, whether it be getting fired, crapped on, or yelled at. Our knee jerk reaction is to attack that which is attacking us. In doing so, we resign ourselves to being the victim and focusing our energy on stopping the attacker.
Focusing on the former, however, is like being the investigator instead of the victim. We observed a bad event or effect and would like to get to the bottom of it so that it can be prevented in the future. The investigator never feels like the victim, realizing that while she can still empathize with the victim, she does not have to be the victim.
If you had the choice in life, would you rather be the remnant of a chalk outline on the ground or the detective ready to hunt down the perpetrator?
We can now see that our choice is clear. We can be the victim or the victor, but not both. The difference between the two is a lot of reality and a bit of attitude. The reality of the situation is that we are either dealing with the root cause or the effect of that cause. Which one we choose comes down to our ability to be brutally honest with ourselves. Blaming the rain for our being wet is certainly easy and may seem superficially logical, but if we were to be brutally honest, isn’t it really because we didn’t bring rain gear or an umbrella? Or perhaps we left the house when unnecessary? Or we chose to live in a place that rains 329 days out of the year? Or we chose to have obligations that required us to be outside when we wish we weren’t? Are you getting the point?
The attitude is where the magic happens though. Even when looking at the root cause, we can get caught in the trap of victimhood by not taking responsibility at some level for our situation. Is it your fault that it’s raining? No, but that’s not the issue. Is it your fault that you’re wet and cold and your hair just layed down? Yes. What if we took responsibility for the root cause (and the subsequent effect), whether or not it’s our fault?
If we don’t take 100% responsibility for something in our life, regardless of fault, we forfeit any chance to change it.
This point is crucial to understand. We need not get into a blame game with life. First, that is a negative emotion that will simply draw more negativity to you life. Second, it ultimately doesn’t matter who or what is to blame. Without taking full responsibility, you can’t possibly affect change. If it’s not on your plate, how can you eat it? Accepting responsibility though allows you to move past what happened and focus on what will happen. Unless you have that elusive time machine, what else is there but what’s to come? Instead of asking what happened, ask what’s next.
The 5 Whys
Here’s a little technique I learned while in corporate America that I’ve used to identify root causes. In doing this, you may be surprised with what you find. The premise is to ask the question “Why?” as many times as necessary until your answer is “because the Earth cooled.” The answer just before that one is your root cause. Like any tool, it works in many cases but not all and is certainly not infallible. Still, it may give you more insight into the issue.
Let’s look at our rain example. The issue is I’m wet and cold.
- Why am I wet and cold? Because I got rained on.
- Why did I get rained on? Because I had to leave the house and didn’t bring an umbrella
- Why did I leave the house? / Why did I forget the umbrella? I had to go to work / I didn’t remember the umbrella
- Why do I have have to go to work? / Why didn’t I remember the umbrella? I have a job / I didn’t set a reminder.
- Without being too self-deprecating, let’s say the Earth just cooled.
So our root causes above are somewhere between having a job and not setting a reminder to grab the umbrella. The latter can be fixed immediately without trying to control the universe or the rain. The former is also fixable in that there are other options than having a job. Perhaps we could have a business or save enough money to become an investor. Perhaps we can simply marry for money. The point is, without laying blame, we can fix the issue of being wet and cold with a focus on the causes and not on the effect.
By the way, imagine solving our pressing issues of the day with this technique. How would we approach school shootings, the national debt, racism, financial stress, and other issues that are on our minds every day? How would it affect the way legislate our laws and create our societal rules? Consider how it would change the way you “parent” your kids – and consequently how they will “parent” your grandkids.
I hope we can all agree that the blame we’ve laid on Mondays is inappropriate and self-demising. Just for fun, though, here’s why Monday is the best day of week
- You get your Monday Mindwash episode (please nod and smile)
- It’s a clean slate to start your best week ever
- Helps you appreciate the weekend that much more
- It rhymes with Fun Day.
- Might as well make the most of it now that you’re no longer delusional
“If you are born poor, it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it is your mistake.”
Bill Gates (Microsoft Co-founder)
The good news is that when we attack the root cause of any issue, not only do the unpleasant effects go away, but they are replaced with a compounding of positive benefits. And since talent is not a requirement, any one of us can choose to ask “Why?”, open our eyes and mind to the answer, and help ourselves get to a better place. I challenge you to share this with six friends or family that still hate Mondays (or money or their fat clothes). You just might save their lives! I appreciate each and every one of you. Meet you at the top, because the bottom’s way too crowded.