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Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead

Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead


    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.

    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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      Last Updated on March 21, 2019

      11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

      11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

      Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

      You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

      But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

      To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

      It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

      “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

      The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

      In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

      Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

      1. Start Small

      The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

      Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

      Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

      Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

      Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

      Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

      It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

      Do less today to do more in a year.

      2. Stay Small

      There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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      But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

      If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

      When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

      I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

      Why?

      Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

      The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

      Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

      3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

      No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

      There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

      What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

      Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

      This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

      This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

      4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

      When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

      There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

      Peter Drucker said,

      “What you track is what you do.”

      So track it to do it — it really helps.

      But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

      5. Measure Once, Do Twice

      Peter Drucker also said,

      “What you measure is what you improve.”

      So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

      For reading, it’s 20 pages.
      For writing, it’s 500 words.
      For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
      For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

      Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

      6. All Days Make a Difference

      Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

      Will two? They won’t.

      Will three? They won’t.

      Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

      What happened? Which one made you fit?

      The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

      No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

      7. They Are Never Fully Automated

      Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

      But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

      What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

      It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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      The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

      It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

      It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

      8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

      Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

      Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

      When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

      The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

      Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

      9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

      The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

      Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

      You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

      But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

      So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

      If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

      This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

      The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

      Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

      10. Punish Yourself

      Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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      I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

      It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

      You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

      No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

      The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

      But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

      11. Reward Yourself

      When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

      Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

      The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

      After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

      If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

      Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

      If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

      In the End, It Matters

      What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

      When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

      And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

      “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

      Keep going.

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      More Resources to Help You Build Habits

      Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
      [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
      [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
      [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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