Common objection 1: I want to understand the root of the problem before solving it

November 21, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness, Leadership, Tips

[This post is part of a series on internal objections and blocks and how to overcome them. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]


People usually state this objection with something like

I want to understand the problem before acting. I want to get at the root first. If I don’t, it will just happen again.

You can also call this objection Analysis Paralysis since it leads people to analyze over acting. Again, some problems require analysis, but I bet you’ll find that the more you learn alternatives, like the ones below, the more you’ll learn to solve problems faster.


My classic example in my seminars is someone who wants to get more fit but thinks something is driving them to overeat, like from their childhood. Maybe they believe something their parents or teachers did makes them eat too much or not take care of their body.

That belief suggests that if they don’t understand what drives their behavior and fix the root problem, getting more fit won’t help because the root problem will cause the problem to recur.

Underlying belief: the Dandelion Model

I call this objection the Dandelion Model, since people often model their problems on getting rid of dandelions, which many believe grow back if you don’t get rid of the entire root, however deep.

This objection may apply to some problems, but not all and I suggest far fewer than most people believe.

I’ll show alternatives below and point out that experience has shown me that the more I challenge the Dandelion Model with other models that don’t discourage solving problems, the more the model withers away, I get better at solving problems, and my life improves.

Alternative belief: the Burning Building Model

I propose an alternative belief, which I call the Burning Building Model. It says

if you’re in a building on fire you don’t need to know its cause to know to get out.

Another alternative is to realize that imagining the existence of a root problem doesn’t mean one exists. Maybe one exists, but if not you can search forever for something that doesn’t exist, obviously never find it, never solve your problem, and live with misery for no reason except your own imagination. And unwillingness to examine a belief someone foisted on you.

Alternative strategy

In other words, if you have a problem, sometimes solving now it is the best long-term solution.

To our example person who thinks getting more fit without solving the root problem will only lead to it recurring, well, maybe, but maybe not.

For now, let’s grant they may be right. Even so, that doesn’t change that eating and exercising more healthily will make them more fit.

More than that, they will change in the process too, perhaps to the point that the once root problem no longer applies. Or from their new perspective their problem will look different. More specifically,

Alternative Consequence 1: Sometimes after you solve problem, you can see it more clearly when it isn’t creating the stress it once did.

For our example, someone who gets fit may find when their body image, feelings of guilt over food, or whatever made their unfitness a problem isn’t causing them stress any more that the cause they looked for becomes clear.

In other words, you can often solve problems easier when you aren’t suffering from them.

Alternative Consequence 2: Sometimes after you solve a problem, you find yourself a new person with new values and you don’t care about the problem any more.

For our example, someone who gets fit may find themselves enjoying their new life. Maybe they’ll find they like eating and exercising the new way. Or they’ll find a new community or group of friends that supports the new them. They may find their old selves and their old ways unattractive.

In other words, you often find the root problem applies to an old you who no longer exists.


Now you may say it still helps on the way out to figure out if you left the iron on or what caused it to know to prevent future fires. To that I say I’m not suggesting applying the Burning Building Model to all cases. Use your judgment, but I bet the more you think in terms of the Burning Building Model, the more you use it and the more you solve more problems faster, easier, and more enduringly.

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