The way we deal with problems is like the way we deal with weeds.
Cut the weed above ground level and it will grow again. Get it by the roots and it will trouble you no longer!
Like the roots of a particularly tricky weed, the ultimate causes of our problems are often deeply buried.
Some of us may like weeds, but for those of us who don't, when we look at a weed we see a problem. But most of the time we aren't seeing the whole problem.
Unless we get on our hands and knees and do a bit of digging then we will only ever see part of the picture. The bit that's right there in our face, spoiling our lovely neat garden!
But its those roots that we really need to be looking for. Because it is only by tackling them that we will be properly rid of our problem.
Now, let us take an everyday example and see how it fits into our weed analogy:
We develop a pain in our leg. How do we deal with it? A common approach would be to start with the closest problem or symptom and work from there.
1. We take pain killers to numb the pain.
This is like cutting the weed just above soil level. Its gone! For now ...
2. We do therapeutic exercises to treat the leg and stop the pain.
This is like pulling out the weed but leaving its roots behind. Again, our problem seems to be sorted ...
3. We examine what it was that caused the leg to become dysfunctional in the first place and make a change in our lifestyle in order to stop the problem from re-occurring (for example; perhaps the pain came from how we were sitting. So then we learn how to sit in a more healthy way, or we cut down on the amount of sitting that we do).
Finally we've done what we should have done all along! Our weed is gone for good, and no trace remains.
These root problems cause most of the smaller surface level problems, those that we all encounter on a regular basis. The weed grows above soil where we can see it because it has roots sustaining it out of sight beneath the ground. And yet we will often overlook the real problems simply because we cannot see them. We are so concerned with the fact that this horrible looking weed is ruining our garden, that we don't spend the time to dig a little deeper. If we have something that is in our face, demanding our attention, then we are likely to attend to this rather than something that is more distant, or unseen.
That's if we are lazy gardeners. If we are good gardeners then we always spend the time. Because time spent is actually time saved in the long run.
As a society we are lazy gardeners, constantly attacking problems at surface level.
This is because we want immediate results. We want to see something for our money. We don't want to have to get on our knees and get our hands dirty.
We can see this approach everywhere.
Football managers are hired and fired in quick succession. Alex Ferguson said recently that, had he been a manager today, he would have been fired before he had the chance to show what he was truly capable of. Few are given the chance that Ferguson had, to settle in to a club. To be able to make mistakes and to grow and learn. Ferguson was given the chance to mature into the great manager that he is today.
We see it also in politics. Politicians know that their time in the limelight is limited. And so few will be inclined to dig deep and offer effective - deep - solutions to the problems that face us. It may be that any lasting solution could take decades to produce any fruit worthy of notice. People whose careers rely on the superficial ebb and flow of public opinion cannot afford to wait this long. They need immediate results, because their jobs depend on it.
Bust the drug lords and they will be replaced. Bust the politicians and they will be replaced. Bust the bankers and they will be replaced. The weed will grow back unless you get to its roots.
We must dig deeper!
When we tackle a problem at the deeper level it may not be quite as easy to see results. Pain killers will take away the pain immediately. Learning a new way to sit may even cause us more pain to begin with!
Look around you. It won't take you long to see this approach in action. Bad gardeners everywhere.
Ask yourself: do I really want to get better? Do I really want to see these problems solved? Do I really want a solution?
If the answer is yes, then we must be prepared to get our hands dirty, sweat a little, and dig a bit deeper.