Fix problems at the source | FOW #19

Address issues by discovering the root cause rather than focusing on the symptoms or the consequences. Continuously seek improvement by developing long-term solutions.

Fix problems at the source. On its surface, this fundamental seems simple enough.

It’s about practicality, right? Just find out what’s causing the issue, make the necessary correction and BINGO! Another mystery solved.

But when one digs a little deeper the “source” might not be as obvious as it seems, especially in this age of misinformation. As facts are disputed more and more, hunting down the source of a problem can point to a scapegoat just as easy as it points to a truth.

Caution: Our rationalities and justifications are our own personal scapegoats.

I see this fundamental as being more about seeking a higher level of responsibility. It’s about systematically improving the process on as big of a scale as you can. It’s a commitment to uncovering the cause of the cause of the cause.

One way I’m currently practicing this fundamental is around my personal eating habits. Our household’s knowledge of nutrition is pretty good. Updates on the latest craze are always welcome, but we consider ourselves to be above average in nutritional knowledge. My wife is one semester away from an alternative nutrition degree and I’ve been devouring similar education for over two decades. (“Devouring” being a double entendre in this case: NOT a pun, for those keeping score at home.) ☺

My “problem” has always been the same. I have a history of eating too much of the wrong foods. Eating sweets, meats, fried stuff, and other unhealthy foods in large portions is the problem. And the source of this problem is definitely not a lack of knowledge. I already know not to do this. Since knowledge is not what makes the difference here, I ask myself, “What is it?” What is the source of this problem where I knowingly eat junk that doesn’t serve me?

It actually took a death in the family to help me find the answer. Almost 3 years ago my dad’s cancer took him away from us, and I refused to believe it was by chance. After gathering some more knowledge I became convinced that I did not have to succumb to the same fate. I could make better lifestyle choices and be cancer free. The healthy answer would have quite a lot to do with the eating choices I make. The “problem” was that I still had a drive to eat badly. I knew a little more, but when it came down to an empty stomach, combined with late in the evening, combined with a couple of glasses of wine, my defenses were pummeled and weak.

Another weakness I discovered was my ability to consciously choose. I noticed that rarely was the overeating of unhealthy foods done by choice. It was an automatic and unconscious response to the circumstances around me.

Fixing problems at the source for me was to build that muscle of consciousness around what I put in my body. It’s still a challenge, but this has opened up a whole new realm of power and freedom around how I enjoy food and health. From time to time, I give myself conscious permission to still eat junk, sugary stuff, and whatnot, but rarely do I find myself waking from my familiar, unconscious trance with a full stomach and more ice cream on its way to my mouth.

It’s like I’ve shifted from the involuntary to the voluntary.

Not fixing problems at the source could look something like bypassing your car’s exhaust system to reduce the impact of a flawed catalytic converter. That would be a temporary fix and also known as, not really fixing it at all. This just substitutes a smaller problem for the original, bigger problem. Fixing problems at the source in the car’s case should look like unclogging or replacing the broken part.

When it comes to people, myself, others … etc., I prefer to dig deeper. What in your life, business or community is not working up to the level of full possibility? What’s the cause of that? And what’s the cause of THAT? … and THAT? Keep digging!

Finding the actual “source” of anything can be quite a journey in itself. The deeper we let the rabbit hole take us, the bigger the adventure.

Happy trails!



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