We do a lot for our looks, take care of our body, see the doctor if something is wrong. For some reason we have a completely different attitude to our psychological health. I am convinced that if more people were aware that personal problems can bet resolved, similar to a broken arm - they would address them. The quality of life for a lot of people would increase dramatically.
The good news is that “things” that bother us about ourselves, do not need to be accepted as irrevocable facts of life. Unfortunately this is not commonly known.
We of course all carry “things” around with us. Many of them are not major problems, some of them however can be. My point is around the “things” that impact our quality of life, our career, our relationships and interactions with others in a significant negative way, such as difficulties with bosses, problems with peers, problems with teams and so on. It can also be worries or fear. Examples: major worries giving presentations, fear to have a confrontational discussion with someone.
At times we may not even be aware of it ourselves. What we often notice is the result or the reaction of others. Some of these reactions, outcomes have been around for some time and when we think about it we can often see a pattern. It is easier to see such patterns when observing others. Example: This good guy who always gets heated up when somebody asks him a question, even a harmless one. The boss, who does not let you finish your sentence, but wants to do it for you; the colleague who always perceives that others do not accept him… and so on. Very often these observed reflexes or habits limit an individual in his work and in his career development.
As most people have something that limits or hurts them, we could assume that a lot of people are working on improving themselves. My impression is that this unfortunately happens very rarely.
Why is this the case? To me it boils down to two fundamental reasons.
The first reason is that we are not aware of our issues. It is indeed not easy to observe ourselves. It is much easier for us to observe others. What we can see and feel is the result from our behaviour. However the reaction to this behaviour often does not come as an immediate slap in to the face. If it were a slap; this would actually be helpful because we then would realise immediately that something went wrong. In the grown-up world the reactions from our counterparts will be controlled/hidden and often delayed which makes it really hard for us to link a negative reaction clearly to a specific behaviour of ours.
The second fundamental reason - we just don’t know that these issues can be resolved. On top of that we feel uncomfortable to explore and discuss with others the existence of personal problems and their resolution. This second point is the one I want to address here. It is actually quite sad to see how many people walk around with their burden, due to a combination of not being aware of it and secondly not knowing that most of it could be resolved.
Most people are hardly aware of the great capabilities and resources they possess to change these situations. Therefore as they don’t know, their conclusion is – we just need to live with the pain – nothing can be done anyway.
In reality there is a lot we can do! Most issues people have that live a “normal” life can be resolved with the support of a good Coach. More severe issues, that require psychological and maybe medical care need to be dealt with the appropriate experts.
We probably all know people in the business or the family environment who could need coaching to overcome personal issues. This outside view is often much clearer in detecting an issue than what we can get from observing ourselves. Detecting an issue is one thing, knowing what the root cause is, is another. We should stay away from any kind of judgement what kind of problem people may have. Below I make a suggestion how you can address issues you or others may have.
Once we observe and notice somebody’s issues, we can imagine the impact that must have on them in their business and private life. This person obviously suffers from that. In spite of that pain, the person cannot seem to be able to address and resolve their problem. The person may even show an amazingly high tolerance to “pain/discomfort” caused by this personal issue. When I ask, why do you tolerate this pain? I can get answers like.. – “that’s just the way I am” or ” because that’s how it has been for a long time or even forever”. It is actually quite amazing to see the amount of pain and limitation of quality of life we are prepared to take, when it comes from personal issues. On the other hand there is a very low tolerance to physical pain. For many even a light headache needs to be immediately eliminated with a pill. For personal matters this is very different. Somehow personal matters just appear to fly under our radar and hence we do not see and address them. We probably cannot imagine that most of the time these issues related to our behaviour and the ways we look at the world can actually be resolved. We do not need to just live with these problems; we really do not have to accept them.
Lets take the analogy of physical problems, compared to the personal ones. Lets imagine that a personal problem would be a physical one. Using this analogy people would not seek help for a twisted ankle. Why? “this happened to me before, it will go away”. In case of a more serious problem, analogy of a broken leg – “I am not the only one with this problem, why should I seek help?” – “yes it does hurt a lot, but at one point of time it will somehow grow together and hurt less” the logic at times continues “I broke my arm (analogy) before, I can see its not fully functional, but it hurts much less than it did before” or ,” … besides, other people have even more pain!”. I admit there is some logic to that, but again if this really were a physical problem and not a personal one, everybody would ask for help and welcome it.
Help is more generally accepted when the pain becomes so unbearable that it simply stops you from functioning (example: severe depression). At that time psychological and/or medical help is accepted simply because it is a matter of survival. In our analogy with physical health this is comparable to an operation without which you put your life at risk or a wheel chair when you just cannot move your legs anymore.
So most of us are much more reasonable when it comes to physical damage or pain. Regular check-ups are popular and in case of a physical problem, people will go immediately or eventually to see a doctor.
We have seen that there is a substantial gap between asking for support for physical problems and for personal ones. There is the same if not an even larger gap related to prevention and potential development.
Look what people are prepared to invest in time and money to look better and physically feel better, – it is just amazing. Fitness centres, sports and other good stuff is widely used and this attitude is taken even further. The proof is the turnover of business related to cosmetics, plastic surgery, botox and alike. The positive side about this is that many people accept that they can influence their fitness and the way they look. Many feel accountable for their physical well-being and do something for it. Some of us may think that at times this is taken even a bit too far. Anyway, the positive part remains that we are aware and many are prepared to take action to improve their physical condition. There is no doubt a personal gain in having a healthy body and to like the way we look. There is the interdependence between the body and our psychological systems. Lets keep that in mind and leave it aside for the moment.
The point I want to get across is:
- We are very aware of most of our physical condition. We want to prevent, to cure and also to improve our physical state and most of us take action on one or more of these points
- We are not aware about most of our personal problems and their implications. Even if we are aware, many of us do not know that these problems can be resolved. Hence cure mostly happens only when the problem is so severe that it takes us out from our daily routine. Preventions, check-ups on personal issues are extremely rare. Improvement/development of personality is rare. I see this happen in large international organisations. Even there it tends to be focussed on few selected talents. This leaves a lot of the existing leaders out of the development scope. Today few people give their behavioural, psychological health the same value and attention they give to their physical condition
In other words, we are not managing our behavioural and personal capability the same way we manage our physical health.
The consequence of this is that people are missing a huge opportunity to improve their happiness and success in life.
I meet a lot of people that want to improve their situation. They are the lucky ones, as they are giving themselves a chance to progress and improve their life. On the other hand I see a lot of people suffering and struggling with issues that could be resolved.
What can we do with this information? What kind of observation could help us detect that a person may need help? I picked some simple examples that may give you ideas on topics and people:
- He/she wants to engage his people more, but he can’t
- He/she wants to feel more comfortable during the presentations
- He/she should make a person redundant, but somehow just can’t do it
- He/she should take a clear stand as a boss towards his/her people, but for some reason does not
- He/she cannot give the team the freedom they need
- He/she can not take decisions
- He/she is worried about so one/many thing(s), that appears to block him/her
- Actually a good manager, if only he/she would not always…..
So what is the point of all of this? Have a look at the approach below and maybe this will give you some inspiration. You can take this as something for yourself or for others
- Find out what bothers you or what others may not like about you
- Prioritise your findings – take an easy one to start with
- Talk with a person you trust. Find out if you can figure out together a) what it is b) name the problem clearly c)try to find out where it comes from d) resolve the origin e) start new habits, ways about it and practice, practice the new behaviour
- If you have identified an issue that is limiting you substantially and that you can not really resolve with a friend, then approach a good coach to address it. Sometimes it is just too personal, too complex and/or may require coaching expertise.
- You can also help others to be aware that they have an issue in the appropriate way. Being aware is the first big step towards the resolution. Don’t push hard, this risks to have a counterproductive effect.
It would be great if this information could support you in your reflections and maybe also encourage you to support others.