The Way We See the Problem is the Problem

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People are intrigued when they see good things happening in the lives of individuals, families, and organizations that are based on solid principles. They admire such personal strength and maturity, such family unity and teamwork, such adaptive synergistic organizational culture. And their immediate request is very revealing of their basic paradigm. “How do you do it? Teach me the techniques.” What they’re really saying is, “Give me some quick fix advice or solution that will relieve the pain in my own situation.”

They will find people who will meet their wants and teach these things; and for a short time, skills and techniques may appear to work. They may eliminate some of the cosmetic or acute problems through social aspirin and band-aids. But the underlying chronic condition remains, and eventually new acute symptoms will appear. The more people are into quick fix and focus on the acute problems and pain, the more that very approach contributes to the underlying chronic condition. The way we see the problem is the problem. Look again at some of the concerns that introduced this chapter, and at the impact of personality ethic thinking. I’ve taken course after course on effective management training. I expect a lot out of my employees and I work hard to be friendly toward them and to treat them right.

But I don’t feel any loyalty from them. I think if I were home sick for a day, they’d spend most of their time gabbing at the water fountain. Why can’t I train them to be independent and responsible — or find employees who can be? The personality ethic tells me I could take some kind of dramatic action — shake things up, make heads roll — that would make my employees shape up and appreciate what they have. Or that I could find some motivational training program that would get them committed. Or even that I could hire new people that would do a better job. But is it possible that under that apparently disloyal behavior, these employees question whether I really act in their best interest? Do they feel like I’m treating them as mechanical objects? Is there some truth to that? Deep inside, is that really the way I see them? Is there a chance the way I look at the people who work for me is part of the problem? There’s so much to do. And there’s never enough time. I feel pressured and hassled all day, every day, seven days a week. I’ve attended time management seminars and I’ve tried half a dozen different planning systems. They’ve helped some, but I still don’t feel I’m living the happy, productive, peaceful life I want to live. The personality ethic tells me there must be something out there — some new planner or seminar that will help me handle all these pressures in a more efficient way.

But is there a chance that efficiency is not the answer? Is getting more things done in less time going to make a difference — or will it just increase the pace at which I react to the people and circumstances that seem to control my life? Could there be something I need to see in a deeper, more fundamental way — some paradigm within myself that affects the way I see my time, my life, and my own nature? My marriage has gone flat. We don’t fight or anything; we just don’t love each other anymore. We’ve gone to counseling; we’ve tried a number of things, but we just can’t seem to rekindle the feeling we used to have. The personality ethic tells me there must be some new book or some seminar where people get all their feelings out that would help my wife understand me better. Or maybe that it’s useless, and only a new relationship will provide the love I need. But is it possible that my spouse isn’t the real problem? Could I be empowering my spouse’s weaknesses and making my life a function of the way I’m treated? Do I have some basic paradigm about my spouse, about marriage, about what love really is, that is feeding the problem? Can you see how fundamentally the paradigms of the personality ethic affect the very way we see our problems as well as the way we attempt to solve them? Whether people see it or not, many are becoming disillusioned with the empty promises of the personality ethic. As I travel around the country and work with organizations, I find that long-term thinking executives are simply turned off by psyche up psychology and “motivational” speakers who have nothing more to share than entertaining stories mingled with platitudes. They want substance; they want process. They want more than aspirin and band-aids. They want to solve the chronic underlying problems and focus on the principles that bring long-term results.

 THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

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