The Art of Solving Problems Permanently

By Leo Gura - July 19, 2013 | 1 Comments

Creating extraordinary success means changing your problem-solving paradigm. Instead of looking for easy fixes, train yourself to identify permanent solutions.

Big Ideas

If some part of your life is not shaping out the way you want, the problem might be more fundamental then you realize. People are almost always so caught up in looking for the most efficient path to success that they shoot themselves in the foot with quick-fix solutions that fail to address underlying causes. More often than not, a quick-fix solution is less efficient than the real deal.

It’s time to permanently stop wasting your time and energy looking for superficial answers to life’s very real challenges. As you make this shift you will gain a sense of relief and personal power. No longer will you live with the frustration of wondering, “Why can’t I get this part of my life handled?”

Real vs Superficial Solutions

When coaching a client I always have to ask, “How big of a problem do you want to solve?” It’s a question of how deep should I coach. Does the client want to fix this problem for real, or fix it for a little while? There’s a big difference because more permanent solutions are on a totally different plane than quick-fixes. There is also often a tradeoff between the two. How much investment does the client want to make towards his ultimate success?

Study self-development and human psychology long enough and you start to see patterns. One such pattern is that most of life’s problems — inability to lose weight, irritation at work, or drama with the spouse — are actually not the real problems but merely symptoms of something deeper. The real problems are almost always problems of the personal nature, problems of an underdeveloped inner core.

Let’s look at some examples:

The reason you’re fighting with your spouse isn’t because she’s nagging you (although she probably is), it’s because you haven’t built up your own emotional awareness to the point where you can love her unconditionally.

Or, the reason you hate your boss isn’t because he’s a stubborn jackass (although he probably is), it’s because you don’t have the courage to quit a job that you know deep down isn’t aligned with your values.

Or, the reason you’re struggling to make money isn’t because companies are out to screw over the little guy (although many actually are), it’s because you have a limiting belief that keeps you from exercising your leverage when negotiating your salary.

Or, the reason you’re struggling to lose weight isn’t because the latest fad diet doesn’t work (although it probably doesn’t), it’s because you see food as a way to maximize the pleasure you feel in your mouth.

Most doctors, authors, consultants, and self-help gurus don’t like to tell you these things because it’s not an idea that sells very well. Yet it’s 100% true! If you can summon the courage to look inward and work on yourself, you can build a permanently awesome life. Or you can continue with the stop-gap measures and flounder in frustration.

You are the Tree of Life

All the above problems have both surface-level solutions and root-level solutions. Think of yourself as a tree. If you want to grow a big, tall, lush green tree, you need to focus attention on building a strong root system.

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

— Warren Buffett

Robust roots are necessary to provide the support and nutrients to fuel the growth of a big strong tree and sustain it afterwards. Neglecting the roots to focus on improving the branches and leaves is backwards.

If the roots are weak, the wind from a thunderstorm can along and tear the tree out of the ground. Or the tree won’t get enough nutrient absorption from the soil, turning the leaves brown. Or the tree won’t suck up enough water, leaving it permanently stunted and extra-vulnerable doing droughts. In the end, the total weight of the tree is proportional to the extent of its roots.

You can trim a tree up all you want and spray it with all sorts of pesticides, but you will never have a big strong tree doing only that. A tree can only be as healthy as its roots. Likewise, your life can only be as healthy as its roots. And your life’s root is you!

Where to Focus Attention

Clearly your attention needs to go on the root of the problem. But what is the root in your case? Whether it’s a diet problem, a career problem, a relationship problem, or anything else, always always always assume that the root problem is YOU.

You are the tap root of your life. Everything external in your life that you don’t like — from the crummy car you drive to the loser friends you hang out with — is but a leaf or a branch off of you. Your mind and body are the root and trunk of the tree that feeds everything else. Outwards circumstances are your branches and leaves. If you want to be a healthy green tree, reaching tall towards the sky, pay attention to your roots — the leaves will take care of themselves.

Yay! Working the Roots

“Wait, what?! There’s something wrong with me?”

Of course, accepting full responsibility for your problems isn’t an appealing prospect. Most people don’t want to work on themselves — their roots — to support the things they want in life. That requires diligence. That requires discipline. That requires self-reflection. That requires patience. That requires an exertion of the will.

Instead, people want the things they want, directly:

  • I don’t want to change my attitude about eating, I just want to drop 40 pounds!
  • I don’t want to invest time learning how relationships work, I just want fun and companionship!
  • I don’t want to learn about business, I just want my boss to pay me more!
  • I don’t want to spends countless hours mastering a valuable skillset, I just want to earn six-figures!
  • I don’t want to work and patiently save money for a house, I want my house right now!
  • I don’t want to work on my self-image, I want you to tell me I’m beautiful and sexy!
  • I don’t want to think about what my purpose is in life, I just want to have a cool job!

Oh yeah? Well how has that been working for you? You can want in one hand and crap in the other and see which one gets filled faster.

The problem in all these cases in lack of awareness and/or lack of willingness to work the underlying problem. And that becomes the mother of all problems. You cannot be happy or successful if you live life without looking for true solutions to your problems. A true solution is one that’s grounded in you.

Unraveling the Long Thread

Some of the problems that vex us the most are like a big ball of yarn: you pull on one lose end and it just keeps going and going and going and going.

But pulling on that thread is exactly what you need to do if you care about finding a permanent solution. Don’t be afraid if you discover that what looked like a minor problem turns out to involve a lot of variables. Trace it down to the core!

For example, losing 20 pounds and keeping it off permanently might mean that you need a gym membership plus a 30% increase in weekly expenses for quality food. This might means you need more flexible hours and larger income. Which in turn might mean that you need not only a different job, but an actual career. Which in turn might mean that you need to take some online training classes to boost up your skillset and resume.

That’s a lot of variables just to lose 20 pounds but that’s what a real solution will look like sometimes. But don’t forget, this is a permanent improvement to your health, not some yo-yo diet. It also dovetails with other issues you’ll probably want to pursue sooner or later, like higher income and a more satisfying job.

Too often people use long-thread problems as an excuse: “Oh, well… if I had the money, I would eat healthier, of course. But I can’t pay for organic food or a gym membership! Guess I’m stuck.”

No, you’re just not thinking big-picture enough or you’re being too lazy to work the whole thread. Unravel it all and start putting the things in place that need to be in place that will allow you to make the money to easily afford organic food and a gym membership. While you’re at it, why don’t you also set a goal to buy to upgrade your car and apartment! Stop settling for things and create the life you want. There are no hard and fast limits.

Permanent Solutions

Let’s take a look at some permanent solutions to three very common life challenges. Notice the difference in scale at which these solutions operate. These aren’t the solutions marketers sell you, or that you will find on the cover of Cosmo or Men’s Health magazine. Quick? No. Will they work? Most definitely.

Diet:

Almost everyone struggles with healthy diet these days. Here’s how to solve the problem once and for all:

  • Have compelling reasons to eat healthy. You’re not “dieting” to drop weight. You are dieting because you care what you put in your body, or you want more energy, or you want to reduce long-term medical costs, or you want to live longer for the sake of your kids, or you want to attract a higher-quality mate.
  • Build up a disgust for extremely unhealthy foods like donuts, soda, pizza. You want to start seeing certain foods as poisons. You would never put those foods in your body because they destroy tissue, clog arteries, spike insulin, etc.
  • Find tasty food choices that fit your eccentricities, schedule, and budget. Use trial-and-error to design a list of foods that are healthy AND taste good. Find what’s convenient for you.
  • Set up an environment that allows you to eat healthy. Figure out how to stop unhealthy snacking at work. Figure out how to handle situations when you must go out to eat. Find convenient recipes or healthy snacks for when you can’t cook your own meals. Make time in your schedule for healthy eating because it’s now a priority.
  • Exercise so you feel healthy. Find an activity you enjoy doing, whether its a sport or gym routine. Make sure you enjoy doing it. Create a synergy between your diet and exercise.
  • Eliminate toxic compounds like excessive alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs.
  • Weight yourself daily and look at yourself naked in the mirror so you are both accountable for falling off track and reward yourself for staying on course.

If you do all the above, you’ve got a pretty strong solution that grounds into your very being. Some of the items on the list are simple outer game tricks, like doing exercise, finding healthy eat-out places, or weighing yourself daily. Much of it, though, is a shift in inner game: you now think about food in a completely different way. You exercise because you actually find it fun. Your goal is now health instead of weightloss.

Depending on your life circumstances, implementing the above plan may require making big changes in other parts of your life. Maybe your job pays to poorly that you can’t afford anything but McDonald’s and junk food. Okay, then its time to find a better job. Can’t find a better job, you say. Why not? Is that because you don’t have the skills? Okay, then its time to get the skills by going back to college. See how we follow the thread to bottom, until we see a permanent solution? That’s how really stubborn problems tend to go. Almost by definition you don’t want to fix the problem — even look at the problem — because deep down you fear it will require drastic change to fix.

Career:

Almost everyone struggles with money and career as well. Here’s how to solve both problems once and for all:

  • Have a mission in life. Know where you want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now. Identify your values and make sure your career is aligned. Write out your mission statement and create a vision document with medium and long-term career goals. Keep honing your purpose over time and moving jobs as needed to align with it.
  • Develop your skills constantly. Find the most important elements of your job that you need to be good at and practice them weekly. Read books. Study research papers. Go to workshops. Talk with colleagues. Get an extra degree. Buy tools that empower you.
  • Be in a position where you can change employers if you are mistreated. Have an up-to-date resume ready at all times. Be aware of positions at rival companies. Build up at least 12 months worth of living expenses in your savings account. Make yourself attractive to other employers. Attend conferences and conventions.
  • If you work with people, develop communication skills. Master effective communication and people-skills. Practice working on cooperative projects. Step up and take leadership positions. Read books. Take seminars.
  • Develop a strong work ethic. Work hard at your job so you are valuable to your company. If you run your own business or freelance, work hard so you are valuable to your customers.

The most important foundational piece of the career puzzle is to have a purpose behind what you’re doing. Do you have a job, a career, or a life calling? There’s a huge difference! Most of us simply have jobs or careers. You should be working a life calling. If you don’t have one, develop it. There is no other way to find work that’s rewarding, expressive, and fully aligned with your top values. Doing this might require making some painful changes. You may have to quit a lucrative job. You may have to have to start your own business. You may have to go back to school to learn the necessary skills to move into your dream position.

If you’re relatively satisfied with your current job, don’t slack off. Take every opportunity to maximize your growth in that position. This may mean investing your own money into training that your company won’t pay for. It may mean taking on a leadership role on the upcoming project. It may mean improving your public speaking skills, communication skills, or technical skills.

Making sure you have power in the employee/employer relationship is an essential solution to the larger problem of being laid off or mistreated by management. You need to have leverage. Instead of worrying about being laid off, you should position yourself as a rare commodity in the workplace. Doing this may involve making some uncomfortable changes. You may have pay a thousand dollars to attend an industry convention to build contacts with rival companies. You may have to summon the courage to renegotiate your terms of employment. You may have to go through several tough job interviews. You may have to go back to school to learn essential skills that will enable you to move up in your industry.

Relationships:

Ah, relationships. Everyone expects that their intimate relationship to run smoothly and effortlessly. The reality is, most people are too busy looking for solutions outside themselves. Here’s how to solve your relationship woes forever:

  • Set up your life so you are 100% happy by yourself. You shouldn’t need anyone to make you complete. You should be complete on your own. Your mate should be the cherry on top of your sundae, not the sundae itself.
  • Educate yourself about common problems and solutions in intimate relationships. Read books. Attend seminars. Talk to experienced friends. Reflect on past failures.
  • Make yourself valuable as a mate. Get your career in order. Get your health in order. Get your finances in order. Take up some new and interesting hobbies like cooking, photography, sports, etc.
  • Address your limiting beliefs and personal demons. Learn to love yourself. Work out any emotional baggage from past relationships. Improve your self-confidence and self-esteem. Fix any lingering mother/father issues. Perhaps you need to work with a therapist.
  • Set up your life such that you have options with other guys/girls. Expand your social circle. Go out to bars and clubs. Constantly mingle with other people so you have options. This is absolutely necessary so you never feel like you have to tolerate mistreatment or settle for less than you deserve. It will also keep your from being needy and co-dependent.
  • Become good at sex. It’s much easier to maintain a relationship with consistently great sex.

Solid relationships are built proactively by working on yourself — that is the grounded solution. Shallow solutions include communication tips from Cosmo, finding a new guy/girl, or asking the other person to change. All you relationship issues will be solved if you take the time to iron out your own emotional baggage, build up your self-confidence, create an attractive lifestyle, and have frequent opportunities to meet other single people. Of course, creating all this might involve significant work.

Probably the single most important element of a successful relationship is to already be 100% happy by yourself (or as close to it as you can get). Otherwise you are just looking for your mate to plug emotional holes in your life — which will never work long-term.

To be 100% happy with yourself may require drastic personal development. You may have to see a therapist to work out childhood issues. You may need to change jobs because the one you have right now is making your miserable and negative. You may need to move to a new apartment because you don’t like where you currently live. You may need to move to a bigger city where it’s easier to mingle. You may need to change your diet and start going to the gym so that you can feel good about your own body.

Permanent Solutions Empower and Motivate

Whenever you’re struggling with a problem in life, you basically have 3 choices:

  1. You can ignore the problem completely
  2. You can admit you have a problem and look for an easy fix
  3. You can bite the bullet and commit to solving the problem permanently

If you’ve been struggling with your diet, career, or intimate relationships, make the choice right now to look for a permanent solution. Although a permanent solution usually requires much more work and discipline, the long-term payoff will be astronomical. Consider the following:

Diet:

Would you rather keep going on yo-yo diets, dropping and gaining weight, staying fat, ruining your health, hating how you look, and being endlessly frustrated? Would you rather flounder on this for the rest of your life? Would you rather be a victim?

Or would you rather work hard for the next 6 months to get all the fundamentals in place so you never have to worry about this part of your life ever again? Not only will you remove the frustration, you will be at the weight you want, you’ll love how you look, you’ll save long-term medical bills, you’ll feel great, and you will find it easier to attract mates.

Career:

Would you rather keep working at the same dead-end job for years, complaining about how your boss mistreats and underpays you, keep coming home tired, worrying about paying the bills, being jealous of your friends, and suffer the agony of knowing that you’re wasting your potential?

Or would you rather work hard for the next 24 months to get all the fundamentals in place so you never have to worry about this part of your life again? In that time you could reassess your life purpose, learn the skills necessary to move into a new job that’s aligned with your values, negotiate a good salary, and begin building a name for yourself in the field.

Relationships:

Would you rather keep your current pattern of inconsistent and low-quality relationships going for the rest of your life? Do you like being lonely? Do you like the rollcoaster drama? Do you suffer from not starting a good family?

Or would you rather work hard for the next 12 months to get all the fundamentals in place so you never have to worry about this part of your life again? In that time you could find a better job, move into a better city, drop 20 pounds, learn two new hobbies, triple the size of your social circle, and see a therapist to work out your deepest childhood hang-ups. Then when you finally attract that perfect mate, you’ll actually be able to make things flow smoothly, and perhaps start a successful family.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

— Abraham Lincoln

Permanent Solutions For The Win

Sure, permanent solutions are more work, sometimes x10 or x100 or x1000 more work. But these are REAL solutions. Once you put them in place, you feel powerful. Because you amass real power. All the sudden, you don’t have to bother counting every calorie because you are a naturally healthy eater. You don’t have to worthy about paying the bills because your career gives you plenty of room for growth. You don’t have to tolerate a frustrating relationship because you have so many options.

Not only that, but the real secret about perusing permanent solutions is that you don’t even need to have them completely in place to feel empowered. The second you decide that you will do whatever it takes to solve your problem permanently, you will feel a huge relief in your body. Years of crippling fear will immediately lift.

Deep down your mind and body know when you’re not perusing real solutions, so they load you with fear. You are afraid because you are avoiding the real solution. So your subconscious mind will crank the fear into overdrive: you will always be fat and ugly, you will always be broke, and you will always be alone.

Who wants to live like that? The fear is worse than the cure!

Instead, summon the courage to put yourself on the path towards a permanent solution. Once you take that first baby step you will have nowhere to go but up. Things can only improve from here. You have chosen to act wisely, and that wisdom will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

Bottom Line: Stop looking for the quick-fix. The root of your problems is always you! Commit to implementing permanent solutions by working on yourself.

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Anna says:

Hi, Leo. Thank you again. Great advice to look for the roots of the problem. I have no problem with a weight or health in general. I am almos vegetarian, but your advice applies to any problem thank you.

I wish you the best

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