The Surprising Source of Most of Your Problems

Do problems seem to plague you wherever you go? Are you always passed up for promotions? Have you struggled to get new jobs? Is your personal life filled with drama? Why on earth are you so plagued when other people seem to have much smoother lives?

I’ll give you a hint: The common element in your problems is you.

Sorry, but there’s a good chance if you made some changes, some of these external problems would just melt away.

How do you know when it’s you? After all, some things are truly out of your control. Think about when you approach your friends with a problem. Does it go something like this:

You: I have a problem with X.

Friend 1: Try A!

You: I can’t because …

Friend 2: Try B!

You: I would, but …

Friend 3: I always use C, and it works great.

You: Yes, but that costs money.

Friend 4: I had great success when I did D. I’d be happy to help you get it going.

You: Yes, but you have a cousin who’s an accountant, so that won’t work for me.

Notice what is happening here? You reject every offer of help and every idea. What you want is sympathy, not change. Sympathy is easy. Change is hard.

Here’s how you can make a lot of your problems go away:

Eliminate the “yes, but” from your vocabulary.

When you ask for advice and respond with “yes, but” or one of its many cousins, you find yourself stuck in the same situation eternally. Look at how you can take the advice people give you.

Not everyone gives quality advice, of course, but if someone you respect makes a suggestion, seriously consider it. If you ask your Facebook friends and a group of normally drama-free people agree on a solution, take it.

Take your boss’s word as truth.

Most bosses are interested in productive employees. That’s it. Most bosses are good people under a lot of stress. When your boss says she doesn’t like it when people come in late, come in on time. When your boss says she needs a project done by Tuesday end of business, she needs it done by Tuesday end of business. Not Wednesday morning.

If your workload is too high, tell your boss before you get behind. Once you get behind on your workload, it’s hard to fix it. Speak up early.

Be aware of politics, but don’t play them.

Understanding how the politics work at your office is critical for your success. Yes, being nice to the CEO’s admin does make scheduling your meetings easier, and sucking up to the marketing director makes your projects get priority. That’s standard.

But, many people with problems take politics to a whole new level. They try to advance by looking for problems with their co-workers or bosses. Instead of helping a struggling co-worker out, they undermine her further. When a newcomer joins the team, instead of mentoring, they fear she will be promoted ahead of them and exclude her from meetings.

Stop all that. It brings unnecessary drama into your life. Just be nice. Build the reputation for being the person who will help other people out. When you’re nice, people will be nice to you in exchange.

While you can’t stop all the mean people this way, you substantially lower your chances of creating enemies.

Try therapy.

Not a joke. If you seem to have a lot of problems in your life, go talk to an expert. You may have behaviors that you can change through hard work and self-examination. It’s worth your time and effort and money. Your company employee assistance program can refer you to a therapist, or ask your doctor. If you go through your EAP, the first visit might be free. An EAP doesn’t report who’s using the services to the company, so your boss won’t even know.

This article originally appeared at Inc.

Image by Nina Garman from Pixabay

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7 thoughts on “The Surprising Source of Most of Your Problems

  1. I wish I could send this to a few people! Unfortunately they aren’t self-aware either….

  2. This is so good … really solid, actionable advice … thanks for showing it to me … and I plan on passing it on to a few select people.



    Oh no, not me … I’m good, but thanks anyway.

  3. I generally agree with this advice, but your boss causes problems, too. This article has a great example:

    “When your boss says she needs a project done by Tuesday end of business, she needs it done by Tuesday end of business. Not Wednesday morning. If your workload is too high, tell your boss before you get behind.”

    Translation: your deadlines are not flexible, except that if you’re not going to meet them they are flexible so you should talk to your boss about them.” I’ve heard this messaging so many times and it is TERRIBLE. The first advice says: “DON’T QUESTION MY DEADLINES!” The second advice says: “TELL ME WHEN YOU CAN’T MEET MY DEADLINES.” These things aren’t actually mutually exclusive because the FIRST ONE ISN’T REAL. Most deadlines at work are artificial, unless they tell you the real reason. You SHOULD discuss deadlines when you get them. It IS okay to question so many deadlines. And, if it isn’t, then it’s likely you have a bad boss, not real deadlines.

    Of course, that can all be true and you still can be the main cause of your own problems.

    1. I think you’re taking a pretty big logical leap here. Telling a boss when you’ll miss a deadline doesn’t necessarily meaning that the deadline isn’t real. The boss may delegate that work to someone else, who has less on their plate. The boss may also negotiate with the folks driving the deadlines (many in my line of work are driven by regulations, and extensions can be requested). Or the boss may just need to plan to take the hit, and make up for it in other areas. There’s a lot of reasons why a boss may want you to talk to him if you can’t meet a deadline, without the deadline being fake.

      I’ll be honest, most of the deadlines I set are false. I have a deadline driven by contracts and regulations and such, but the deadline I give YOU is going to be two weeks before mine, minimum. That way, when you come to me and say “I just can’t get it in on time, my dog was sick and my car broke down and my computer is fried and Jack hasn’t given me the TPS reports and….” I can say “Wow, calm down, okay, can you get it to me a week late? It’s not ideal, but it’ll still work that way.” You feel like you’ve won something, and I still have a week in my back pocket if needed.

      When a boss learns to account for such things in their planning, who do you think is the source for the problems?

  4. I have always took the philosophy that if the problems are your own fault, then you have the answers in fixing them.

  5. The problem is that realizing most of your problems are caused by you requires a level of self-awareness and criticism most people cannot manage.

    Thinking of a friend who once told me “I don’t get it, Simone. Why does drama just follow me around?”

    Me: “…”

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