I was sitting next to my partner when I heard her exclaim “Oh crap!”
“What’s up, honey?” I asked, sensing she was really upset?
“I just missed a Skype call with an important client,” she confided.
Tears began to well up behind her eyes and I knew she was beating herself up for missing the call and probably thinking that she had potentially tarnished her professional reputation in the eyes of an important new client…
“What’s wrong with me that I can’t even make a simple call on time?” she exclaimed in exasperation…
This was the second time in one day she had missed a scheduled call and she was understandably frustrated.
Here’s how I coached her back to the point where she was smiling and laughing again…
“Honey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you…
Instead of thinking about this as a problem with YOU, let’s approach it in terms of a problem with the SYSTEM you use to schedule calls across time zones…”
It was her 4th week traveling on the road with me and she was still not used to scheduling her business calls across multiple time zones.
“How come you missed the call, honey?”
“Well, he’s on Central Standard Time and I’m on South African time, so I proposed a time to him and then added on 7 hours to figure out the call time here in South Africa… except, I counted wrong and entered the wrong time into my calendar, and then missed the call… Dumb, dumb, dumb!”
I suggested we leave ‘dumb’ out of the equation and just look at the system…
“Where was the point of failure in your scheduling system?”
“In relying on my math to calculate the time difference between USA and South Africa time.”
“So, what could you do in future to ensure that you calculate the correct time?” I asked.
“Well, I guess if I entered the time of the call into my Google calendar in Central Standard Time, Google can display it accurately in my local time zone and I won’t have to do the math…”
“Exactly!” I burst out with delight.
“With that new SYSTEM for scheduling calls across different time zones, you’ll always know the right time for the call in your time zone…”
I could see the color returning to her face and she leaned over and hugged me (I like hugs).
“See how changing an element in the system is a more effective approach to fixing a problem than trying to fix yourself?”
“Yes!” She exclaimed with a grin on her face, “I feel soooo much better.”
So, the moral of the story here is this:
If you approach your everyday breakdowns in terms of a system failure instead of a personal failure, you not only bypass the bad feelings of shame and failure, but can look at your problems objectively and create solutions that would never have emerged had you given in to the trap of trying to fix yourself.
Trying to fix yourself assumes that something is wrong with you… and nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s the unconscious logic that occurs in your brain when you try to fix yourself:
- Something is wrong with me
- If something is wrong with me, I must be broken.
- If I’m broken, then nothing I try will ever work…
- If nothing will ever work, I will always be a failure…
- If I’ll always be a failure, then what’s the point in trying anything ever again…
THE RESULT: Endless self doubt, shame, depression and no action – not exactly a recipe for success…
So, next time you think you’ve screwed something up, STOP – then approach the breakdown in terms of a system fault instead of a personal fault. See if you can fix the system, and then go reward yourself for being so smart!
That’s all for this week…
P.S. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you learned from this article…