Once in a while I get the urge to wear some insanely high heeled shoes. After an evening of wobbling about on these treacherous stilts my feet feel like they’ve been tossed into a dryer with a couple of cement blocks. Ouch! Why do I do it? This is just one of many examples of “problems of our own making” that I’ve observed in myself and others over the years. We dream of squeezing into the jeans we’ve outgrown by 3 sizes, but persist in deleterious eating habits and a lifetime aversion to exercise. We post our resumes on job web sites when we know that over 80% of jobs are found through personal connections and networking. We marinate on some irritating thing a co-worker said or did, allowing our mood to plummet and our own performance to suffer. We know our project schedule is hopelessly optimistic, but avoid having the tough conversation with our sponsor that could put things right.
These kinds of problems seem to spring from a few root causes:
1. Something we are saying that we shouldn’t, like “Sure, we can cut 3 months off of the schedule and still ship with quality.”
2. Something that we’re NOT saying that we should, like “This schedule is pure fiction.”
3. Same as above, only with actions instead of words. Maybe you hit the “Send” button before thinking how nasty your email might sound when read in the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West. Or perhaps you can’t be bothered to respond to email or phone calls until repeatedly beseeched.
4. Messed up thinking. The reality distortion field inside of my head seems plenty real, but I have long since stopped believing that my perception of what’s going on matches reality in any way. It’s possible to work up a pretty good head of steam with incessant negative self-talk and persistent moping. Do a little reality check. Is there a perspective from which this situation is perfectly acceptable? Is there a potential upside hidden in the dung heap? If so, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a self-inflicted mindset problem.
No one can give you what you deny yourself! If it’s a self-induced problem, get out a mirror and have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself about getting out of your own way. Then get whatever help you need to change your behavior, language or thinking. Don’t give up when you relapse. Winston Churchill said “Success is largely a matter of going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Here’s hoping that Santa brings you the gift of awareness, clarity, and choices over behavior, language and thoughts that serve you better,
– Kimberly Wiefling, Author of Scrappy Project Management, regularly one of the top 100 project management books in English in the USA, Japan, Germany, France, sometimes Canada, but usually NOT in the UK, for some reason. Help me solve this problem (except by dropping “scrappy” or using proper English) and I’ll send you a free book.
2 thoughts on “My Own Worst Enemy”
Yes, well even if we are not actually causing the problem, I have found it a helpful mental exercise to pretend I am. Sometimes this reveals some unexpected perspectives. Once I “pretended” that I was somehow causing a colleague to feel threatened, and discovered that, indeed, I was, by being overly friendly to her clients when partnering with her on engagements. She was afraid that they would like me more than her and that I would steal her clients away. Naturally I would not do that, but she still had this concern regardless. My intentions had nothing to do with my impact. I have learned to own both.
I always thought it probably felt something like your feet being thrown into a dryer with cement blocks. I don’t know how women do it!
I agree with Kimberly in that the default place we should assign ownership to a problem is ourselves. A root cause analysis can go several different ways depending on your locus of control while going through the process.