Question your Foundation

 In Blog

Question your Foundation
By Justin Wright

I recently found myself frustrated with a group I was leading, and I was complaining about small issues and grievances that had been occurring more frequently. What I came to realize was that I had been doing exactly what I caution so many others against. I was focusing on the problems and not the solutions to those problems. Fundamentally, I was not looking inwardly to find out how I could make the situation better and what actions I could take to improve the things that were frustrating me.

So often we look externally when trying to analyze problems. We focus on what others are doing or not doing, the actions they take that cause us frustration, the character traits we assume they have. This is the foundation of office gossip everywhere. It is an outward focus on how everything else in the world around us is wrong, and we are a victim of circumstance in dealing with it.

What if we shifted that perspective? What if, instead of complaining about others, we complained about our lack of action or our apathy? What if we looked internally and questioned our beliefs, the way we act, or the way we lead? Many crises in life can be averted as long as someone is willing to take action in a positive way. The masses tend to react by talking about the things they wish to change, but so few actually take action and put that speech into motion. In order to act effectively, we must first question the ground we walk on.

What if it’s my fault?

The next time you dislike a situation that you are in, or get frustrated with the way things transpire, I want you to ask yourself one simple question: what if it’s my fault? Taking ownership for the bad things that are happening to us is difficult and uncomfortable because we have a natural tendency to get defensive any time our motives, beliefs, or actions are called into question. Being wrong is painful, and our ego will fight this notion violently if we allow it.

What I also want you to understand is the important distinction that the problem is likely not your fault to begin with, but becomes your fault if you allow it to continue. What exactly does this mean? Let’s say, for example, that you are in charge of a team of employees at work. You manage them well for the most part, but performance from a couple starts to slip. You begin noticing a trend that people are taking advantage of the current systems and bending the rules to their benefit.

If you are that manager, it isn’t your fault that people have started to exhibit signs of laziness. When we get comfortable we get complacent, and these types of minor issues happen on teams frequently in every industry. It does become your fault, however, if you allow this behavior to continue. It is up to us to reinforce the environment we want to be a part of.

A quote I heard about coaching long ago that stuck with me is, “if something bad is happening on your watch, you either taught it or allowed it.” Most of us are not going around teaching bad habits to others, but how many of us are allowing things to happen that bother us? If we allow things to occur that frustrate us, upset us, or otherwise reduce our quality of life, we are just as guilty as the perpetrators.

Lead by example

It is crucial that we lead from the front in our lives. We must represent the change we wish to see, and we must embrace opportunities to grow and evolve. Even if you are not in a leadership position currently, we all must find opportunities to lead others on a daily basis. Even if you are the lowest person on the proverbial totem pole in your community, your voice can have an impact and push others to act in a positive way.

I recently watched an interview with Jocko Willink where he discussed the most effective way to provide constructive criticism to a team. His belief is that it first starts with owning the problem and taking responsibility for the solution. Instead of blaming the people responsible and providing feedback on how they can be better, we should approach the conversation from a position of collaboration. We should take ownership of our lack of assistance in initially finding the right solution and offer our help and effort in doing things the right way the second time around. In essence, we should ask ourselves, “what if it’s my fault?”.

Leading by example and leading from the front means always being willing to own a problem and take responsibility for finding a solution. It means taking action when others are more content complaining about the status quo while not altering their routine. To use an extreme example, if you stubbed your toe every time you walked around a corner because something was in the way, wouldn’t you eventually want to move the object in question? So many people are perfectly content stubbing their toe day in and day out, complaining about the pain instead of asking how they can be a part of the solution.

Question your foundation

The hardest part of taking ownership in these situations is being reflective. Sometimes, we have to come to the realization that our current worldview is limiting us from moving forward. Oftentimes we are a part of the problem because we get into a routine. Our focus narrows as we get comfortable, and this comfort can lead to complacency.

The next time you find yourself complaining about a situation, try to pinpoint any limiting beliefs you may have that are contributing to this situation. Are you trying to solve a problem from your perspective that instead requires a different perspective? Do you have all of the information available? Are you biased in your thinking due to your current position, status, or upbringing?

In order to grow and evolve we must constantly reflect on who we are and what we believe in. We are fluid creatures, and this fluidity means that we must revisit our core beliefs often. It is important to spend time being reflective and to question why we think and act the way that we do. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do, people who question your viewpoints and are willing to engage in intelligent discussion.

The only way to know if we stand on firm ground with our beliefs is to constantly check that ground for cracks. If we get too comfortable doing things the way we have always done them, there is no way to know if our foundation has slowly started to crumble. I have encountered many gifted people who succumbed to outdated viewpoints and lost their edge. If you want to know just how dangerous this phenomenon can become, look no further than the KMarts, Blockbusters, and MySpaces of the world. These were all business that, at one time, were extremely successful. The reason they ultimately failed is because their leadership refused to adapt to changing information and adjust their belief systems accordingly.

Take ownership

In his book Going Right which I have discussed often, author Logan Gelbrich points out that we must be responsible for reinforcing the type of character we wish to see in the world. The cost of a better future must be paid by all of us. If you wish to improve your life, or wish to fix the things that make you unhappy, it requires you to reinforce this behavior. You must lead from the front, and you must be the one to take action when others stand by and complain.

By taking ownership of the problem and making it your responsibility to find a solution, you will inspire others to do the same. By constantly questioning your beliefs, by looking for evidence to either support or disprove your worldview, you will create a circle of people who hold themselves to a higher standard. The bad that happens to us was either taught by us or reinforced by us. As soon as you are willing to take responsibility for this, to question your foundation and seek to reinforce it, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many problems are easily solvable.


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