One of the most frustrating things in the world can be trying to help someone else work through a problem. That’s because, without emotion or history, the answer to their problem often seems very clear. You have the distance to see the problem for what it is, and the clarity to see how to fix it.
Sometimes, you have even been where they have been. So you not only see the problem, but you know the solutions and the pitfalls. From your vantage point, the problem they are facing (or the goal they are chasing) is simple.
So you make the necessary suggestions that come to mind.
- Read this book.
- Here, listen to this podcast
- This is what you need to say.
- This is the work you need to do.
But often, it seems, despite your well meaning intentions and your well researched suggestions, the instruction falls on deaf ears. They seem unwilling or unable to do what seems simple to you. It’s just a reminder that “simple is not the same as easy.” When you strip away emotion and history, problems can seem straightforward, but that is not how problems come. They present themselves (often) completely lathered in emotion and with history baked into the core.
So while you can diagnose a problem, and you can suggest solution, you can’t make me do it. You can’t help me.
Regardless of whether we are talking about fixing a relationship, education, growing a business, building an organization, or amending a behavior, there is only so much you can do. You can show me the way. You can provide a light on the path. It’s even possible to shout encouragement from the sideline. But you can’t help me do the work.
Doing the work is up to me.
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