Monday, June 08, 2009

Falling Off the Cliff

In the project I've been working on, I've used a particular analogy over and over again to make a point.

Let's say we are trying to solve the following problem. There is a dangerous cliff in our neighborhood and people keep falling off this cliff and severely injuring themselves.

There are two basic approaches to solving this problem.

The first, is to treat the injured and build hospitals at the bottom of the cliff.

The second approach is to go to the cliff itself and build some fences to PREVENT people from falling off the cliff. We might also post some warning signs and help people avoid the danger in that way.

Approach one is reactive and repetitive. We will have a continued need for medical care at the bottom of the cliff. We have no reason to believe that any fewer people will be falling off the cliff in the future. Nothing is being done to address the cause of the injuries.

Now, while we might need to build a hospital to treat those who have fallen, the second approach is much more of a 'solution.' We are actually implementing a plan to prevent people from falling off the cliff in the first place, thus preventing the injuries in the first place.

When we live our lives in 'reactive' mode, we are basically using the first approach. We fight the fires in our lives repeatedly, without giving thought to a way of preventing or lessening the severity of the fires.

We are actually fairly conditioned to look for the fasted relief from a symptom, even if the approach doesn't resolve the issue permanently. When we do this, we are almost guaranteed a repeat performance. Treating the symptom and ignoring the cause is not a true solution.

Taking a reactive approach takes a tool on us. It requires more energy in the long run to repeatedly deal with something than it does to spend a little more time up front and REALLY solve the problem.

We need to turn a new eye to the issues and challenges in our lives and see if we detect any patterns that require attention.

It might be time to climb the mountain and starting building that fence!