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Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead

Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead
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    You are feeling sick and your stomach hurts.

    “Oh no. I’m getting sick again. I’ve had enough with these issues with my stomach.”

    Then you pick up the phone and make a call to your doctor, explaining that you are not feeling well and that you need help. You are fortunate enough to be able to set up a quick appointment with your doctor and you go in to see him right away.

    After the doctor’s appointment, you start feeling better. Your doctor gave you a bunch of pills to cure your stomach pain and you begin to feel relieved and satisfied.

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    Unfortunately, the next week this same stomach issue returns and you are back to the doctor – with another prescription for medicine for your pains. When this happens, you start to feel like you are living in a real-life version of Groundhog Day — just like Bill Murray

    But this is happening in real life, not in a movie.

    Focus on a wrong part of the problem

    This is a classic example of a case where you thought you were focusing on the true cause of a problem (seeking help to get relief for a stomach ache), but instead, your doctor ended up just fixing the symptoms (giving just a bunch of pills for the pain).

    Since only the symptoms were fixed, the root cause of the problem was never diagnosed. Thus, it still existed.

    For instance, if the doctor had done a proper check up with you, he’d have sent him to do some further investigation. That, in turn, could have revealed that the stomach ache was caused by an allergy, celiac disease, or even appendicitis.

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    Since the proper cause was never investigated, you are now running around in circles, wasting your time on the wrong diagnosis and stressing yourself out about what may really be causing your health issues.

    But let’s move away from this hypothetical you to the “real” you.

    Are you afraid to unlock the door?

    Fixing symptoms is easy. It doesn’t require that much effort on our part and we feel relief very soon afterward. Unfortunately, this kind of “fixing” is like cheating yourself.

    But why do we like to “cheat” ourselves this way?

    First, we may not be fully aware of the real situation at all. We think that the symptom is nothing serious and in many cases this is the case. But since your attitude is like this, you feel no additional action is required.

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    Then, even if we think that there is something bigger going on on the background, we are still reluctant to take action. This could be because the symptoms are not so serious and you think that your situation is not a big deal – you can handle it.

    You may also be procrastinating on finding out the true cause; this could be a sign of fear. You are just plain afraid to find out what is really going on.

    In fact, fear is often the biggest reason we are held back. If it’s health issues you are facing, you are afraid to face the unpleasant truth (which could be the discovery of something serious going on if you dig too deep).

    Still, the problem remains — as do the symptoms — as long as you are not taking any initiative to find out the true root cause.

    Shift your focus

    Finding the root cause requires persistence. If you visited a top doctor in his or her field, they might have difficulties figuring out the real cause of your problems. Because of that you’d have to go through of a lot of laboratory tests to find the root cause.

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    Finding (and fixing) the root cause requires action on your part as well. If you are experiencing the same symptoms over and over again, then you have to take action to learn more about those things (and not just take them as-is).

    There is going to be some courage required when you go after the root cause. Especially if this is a health-related issue. In that case, you have to be willing to find out the real cause.

    On the other hand, if your car is making a funny noise when you drive, not that much courage is required. Just a willingness to take action and get your car fixed.

    Fix the issue for good!

    If you face a recurring problem, take these steps to take care of them:

    1. Acknowledge. It all starts by acknowledging your situation. Ask yourself: “Is this same issue occurring again and again or is it just a random issue?” If your answer is “yes”, you are just facing a random issue, which is most likely nothing more serious. However, if the symptoms are coming back again and again, you have a problem on your hands.
    2. Shift your focus. When you realize that you have a recurring problem, make a decision to find its root cause. Don’t settle for easy fixes or quick solutions. When you settle, you’ll most likely wind up returning back to the original problem since it wasn’t taken care of in the first place.
    3. Feel encouraged. Finding out the root cause can be scary. You will never know what you are going to find and what is going to happen next. On the other hand, don’t you think it is better to find out the true cause, instead of assuming something and pretending everything is okay? Besides, once you tackle the root cause, the rest of the symptoms are going to disappear (depending of the issue, of course).
    4. Take action. Make that call to your doctor. Take your car to the repair shop. Just take action! Problems cannot be solved without activity on your part and the sooner that you take action, the better.
    5. Never give up. Sometimes it may take a long time to find out the root cause of your problem. However, you shouldn’t give up. At the end of the day, knowing the true root cause can make you feel better – even if the truth may not be pleasant. And if the root cause doesn’t come to you right away, just take a breather and continue. You will find the cause (and the possible solution) at some point if you keep searching for it.

    If we focus on just fixing the symptoms, we are wasting our time and energy. Instead, we should shift our focus from fixing symptoms to finding a root cause and fixing that instead. And although finding the root cause may require courage and persistence, it is the only true way of fixing the problems you are facing for good.

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    What steps do you take to find the root cause? How do you handle the fear that is associated with finding the root cause? Share your ideas and experiences in the comment area below.

    (Photo credit: Erasing problem with Rubber via Shutterstock)

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      Timo Kiander

      Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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