It was one of the most powerful questions I heard during my personal development training. We were always being told to verbalise whatever was going on inside, but not to indulge too much in the emotions attached to our issue. If such indulgences went too far the question ‘What are you going to do about it?‘ would snap us back to the practicalities of what to do next.
Sharing our thoughts, especially our concerns and issues with the rest of the group, allowed the others to ask clarifying questions and offer their insights and support. The beauty of it was that everyone unconnected with the issue was in an ideal position to make objective, informed and impartial observations and suggest appropriate courses of action. It seems such a straightforward procedure, but we were so often hindered by what our minds told us we should do (or not do).
For example, there can be a reluctance to verbalise. For whatever reason – whether we think it’s not a problem, or we don’t want to burden others, or we think we can sort it out on our own – we remain quiet. Given that there is support to hand, this is not a wise strategy. The point being that it is not for us to decide whether or not something should be raised. Only by raising it can we find out. Who knows, it might not even be a problem to start with.
Yet even when we do raise our issues, we are inclined to filter the information. We leave out parts we think are unimportant, or bias the story towards a view or solution we think is the right one. The problem is that we are too involved and too attached to be able to make such judgements. It is not our place to decide what is important or relevant and what is not. Just offer the information and allow others to support you. (But be careful you are not simply dumping your problem on others.)
Once out in the open, however, any problem can be assessed, questions asked and a thorough root cause analysis carried out (see, here for examples). Such an approach leads naturally to a plan of action to deal with the problem, but what happens if a person is caught up in the emotions of a situation? The following extract from today’s journal post, ‘Be Serious’, is one example of what happened during my training:
Robert replied that he was mortified and ashamed to have let someone down. But Karaj was not interested in feelings and simply asked, ‘What are you going to do about it? He told the story of the time he was lambasted by a group of German directors on his first day with a training company. They thought him to be incompetent and wanted him out.
Instead of getting emotional about it, Karaj stood up and gave a short speech about his intention and his commitment to what he was doing. He was given a reprieve and for the next ten days he worked so hard to make sure he succeeded that he received an award for his efforts. He did not break down and cry, he took action, fought for himself and won the day. His point to Robert was that he took his fate into his own hands and showed responsibility.
The question is always available. Always there, waiting to be used. Again and again. It is a powerful one because it wakes you up and, once uttered, allows you the opportunity to see that, whatever the problem and however strong the emotional pull, there is always something you can do about it.