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 a 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 post originally appeared at Inc.

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