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Stop Falling in the River
It’s easy to slap a solution onto every problem we see, but sometimes quick fixes hide the real problem.
Today’s newsletter was inspired by the quote you’ll read below. It’s a powerful reminder to pick our heads up and think critically about how we’re looking at the world. It’s easy to drill into the immediate issues at hand and smash quick solutions onto every problem we see, but sometimes we need to take a step back and think deeper to solve what’s really causing the problems.
As always, thanks for reading!
Stop Falling in the River
There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in.
We can’t outrun a bad diet. Advil fixes our headaches but doesn’t change the fact that we’re dehydrated. Screen time limits help us cut down on social media but don’t change the underlying craving for a quick dopamine hit.
Over time we’ve become better and better at treating symptoms instead of diagnosing and treating root causes. Treating symptoms is quick and easy, but finding and resolving the true cause is difficult and time-consuming, at least in the short term.
As with most things that are worthwhile, finding and fixing root causes requires more effort upfront, but the long-term benefits are so great the efforts are always worth our time.
Focusing on symptoms is not only easy, but it’s also fun, rewarding, and satisfying. It’s like cleaning out our inbox. Every email we respond to or delete gives us a feeling of accomplishment and provides the illusion that we’re progressing forward. The reality is nothing of value is being created, and more emails will continue piling up no matter how many we respond to or delete.
If we truly want to make a difference, we have to travel upstream and address the root causes. Instead of constantly deleting a never-ending barrage of new emails, we need to pause for long enough to figure out where they’re coming from and cut them off at the source. During that time, our inboxes will get messy, but what we learn will help us keep them clean for years to come without any issues.
The same can be said of the other pursuits in our life. The more root problems we address, the simpler our lives become.
As we continue to simplify our lives, we can focus our efforts on more impactful issues. We can work our way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization) one rung at a time by finding and resolving root causes one by one.
Solving these problems are not one-time quick fixes like solving the symptoms. Instead, they often require a commitment to something for years to come. Symptoms like low energy have quick fixes like coffee and energy drinks, but the root causes (likely poor sleep, diet, lack of exercise, etc.) can not be solved with a quick fix. Instead, it requires committing to the worthwhile pursuits of better sleep, a healthy diet, and exercising consistently, which are difficult life-long commitments.
Although challenging, the solutions to the root causes of our troubles are integrated into our lifestyles over time. Working out, eating right, and sleeping enough will always be hard, but they become easier over time. And we can take solace in the fact that treating our symptoms is a hamster wheel filled with more pain, suffering, and stagnation than putting in the extra effort to do things right.
What symptoms do you regularly treat instead of addressing the root cause?
What are you missing out on by accepting and addressing these symptoms?
What would your life look like if you addressed the root cause of your symptoms?
An overview of Maslow’s framework and its significance.
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Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.