When is the last time you thought about getting ahead of the curve…of preventing instead of fixing a problem?
A natural tendency we all possess by virtue of our humanity is that we make the same mistakes over and over again. The one advantage of this behavior is that we become adept at fixing the problem because we have extensive experience creating and fixing it.
That’s the only advantage. The cycle of making a mistake, fixing it, becoming more adept at fixing it, then making the same mistake again, fixing it again, etc. robs us time and energy not to mention the financial and personal relation aspects of our mistake. All because we don’t think about how we can avoid the mistake in the future.
The missing piece
Problem-prevention thinking is the missing piece of the puzzle. The good news is that we can retrain our brains to think about problem prevention instead of problem fix.
The first step is always to be aware that you’ve made a mistake. While that seems obvious, there are times when we’re oblivious to the fact that what we’ve done has created a problem. You’ve had this experience. You say something to your love or a dear friend, they suddenly grow quiet and you wonder “What happened?” Fortunately, with most mistakes it’s painfully obvious that we’ve done something wrong and we need to fix it.
The second step is to recognize that our mind has shifted into the problem-solving mode…that we’re thinking of only how we make amends for our mistake. It’s at this moment that you need to shift your thinking to add the missing piece…to ask not only how can I fix this, but how can I avoid making the same mistake again in the future.
You’ll be amazed at how well “fix” behaviors lead to “prevention” behaviors. I was about to make this point at a program for senior executives of a large hospital when one of the execs said “Why are we constantly trying to fix bad hires? Why aren’t we screening for the values we desire?”
This perceptive executive was getting ahead of the curve…thinking about avoiding problems rather than fixing them. Given all of the statistics on the cost of bad hires, not to mention the stress and strain on managers and employees alike, why would you not want to get ahead of the curve? Yet that’s not our natural tendency.
You have to train your mind to overcome this tendency and to think automatically “How do I avoid this problem in the future?”
The third step is to retrain your mind. The simplest way I know is to, each morning, as you start the day, remind yourself that:
- You are going to face problems…that’s life.
- You contribute to every problem you face.
- When you face a problem to ask yourself “How do I avoid this mistake in the future?”
- Adopting the avoidance behavior means you’ll face fewer problems in the future.
- Fewer problems translates into more joyful living.
Every time that I’ve engaged in a simple reminder like this…one that takes only a few seconds a day…and do it daily, my mind automatically thinks this way.
Stop fixing problems. Develop the rare ability to avoid them. Using the simple process outlined above, you’ll quickly train your mind to think “avoidance” rather than “fix.” In doing so you’ll experience:
- Fewer problems.
- Less lost time.
- Less stress.
- More energy.
- A more joyful life.
Not a bad return for a few seconds work.
For our kids
When you see your kids fixing problems, remind them that they have the opportunity to avoid the problem in the future…and all the pain and angst associated with it. All they have to do is decide how they’re going to change their behaviors to avoid this problem in the future. Then lead them through the process outlined above.
More importantly, lead by example. The fact that kids adopt the behaviors of the adults in their lives is no deep, dark secret. Live as you’d like your kids to live and they’re more likely to do so. That’s especially true when they see how well it works for you.
One of the best compliments I get is when students in my programs tell me that what they’ve learned helps them avoid problems…and gain the admiration of others for their ability to do so.