Fixing Problems vs. Building On Success

by Brian on July 12, 2011 in Personal Development,Winning

Are you a problem fixer?

Most of us approach the challenges of life with a mentality that I call “problem-fix.” In short, your method for tackling challenges is to become really good at diagnosing problems and then fixing them.

You might show up to work in the morning and there are already a pile of problems on your desk or in your inbox. So you immediately launch into identifying all the problems and how to fix them. Throughout the day more problems are brought to you, so you set about fixing them as well.

Problems pop up in your personal life as well. Your husband didn’t take out the trash again, your wife spent too much on the credit cards, your kids got in trouble at school. Someone’s behavior is out of line with your expectations, so you set about trying to “fix” them.

I’m going to suggest that you try on a new mentality that instead asks “What is good? What needs to be done?”

What’s Wrong with Fixing Problems?

It depends. If your car breaks down, getting it fixed is an entirely appropriate response. However, using “problem-fix” as your default mode of operation for everything only takes you so far and can get you into trouble.

If you are running a business and all you try to do is fix problems, then you are probably missing growth opportunities.

If every time you meet someone your first inclination is to quickly figure out what is wrong with them and tell them that they should fix it, you won’t have very many friends.

But more fundamentally, “problem-fix” implies a world view that everything is broken in someway and all your efforts are targeted at merely bringing it back up to baseline. You are thrust into a permanent reactive mode and unable to take on challenges proactively. You become a “negative Nelly” in other people’s eyes.

Furthermore, defaulting to “problem-fix” strategies means that not only is growth essentially impossible, but you are actually playing a game of trying to lose as little of what you started with as possible.

Building On What Works

As a simple experiment, ask yourself right now, “What is good with my life? What needs done?”

If you’re like me, it might take a few seconds to come up with an answer as it has never even occurred to you to explicitly ask yourself what is good with your life.

Now, what world view does this mode of thinking imply?

I contrast to a broken “problem-fix” world, asking “What is good? What needs done?” starts from a basic assumption that something good or right already exists and that there are actions you can take to make further improvements.

Instead of constantly trying to bring deficiencies back up to baseline, you are starting from an already acceptably good baseline and adding more to it.

When you look at your business or job, you realize that in addition to the problems that need fixing there are also things that are going really well. You’ll generally get more bang for your buck by doing more of what works than trying to fix what isn’t working.

As a mentor once told me, if you really want your business to explode make a list of the top 10 things that are working well for you and a list of the top 10 things that aren’t working. Figure out how you can do more of the things on the first list, and simply stop doing the things on the second list.

In your personal life, consider how things might be different if every time you met someone your default mode of thinking was to immediately notice what is good about them and how you can see that their life will only be getting better. You will have many more friends than if you bring the “problem-fix” mentality.

Growth will be almost inevitable. People will like you because they see that you have vision and are going places. You will like yourself more because you feel like you are winning more often than you are losing.

In a way, every time you ask “What problem needs fixed?” you are subconsciously calling yourself a loser. Every time you ask “What is good?” you are calling yourself a winner.

How would you feel about yourself and how much would you achieve if you called yourself a loser 365 times in the next year? How would you feel about yourself and how much would you achieve if you called yourself a winner 365 times in the next year?

How to Start

Try starting by simply asking yourself “What’s good about my life?” and “What needs done?” every morning.

It will be much more pleasant than rolling over, punching the alarm clock, and letting out a groan while you think “oh god, what am I going to have to deal with today.”

The more you ask yourself these questions the more natural it will seem to see life in terms of what is working and building on that base.

“But, but, but… problems do happen. I can’t just ignore them.”

You have built a comfort zone around problems, and this new thought pattern might make you feel anxious.

Yes–the car might break down, a client might get upset, your dog might chew up your good shoes. These things happen, and you will want to take care of them. They might be part of your “what needs done.” But these issues will soon start to be part of the background of a life that is working well, instead of the primary focus of a life where things constantly go wrong.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jared Boone September 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I am going to start doing this every morning i wake up. I just moved back to georgia and it has been hard finding a job. I have been waking up with a “Oh great, another jobless day”. Instead. I need to think ok, what am i good at and what can i offer and go from there.


Brian September 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm


That’s a good realization. Best of luck with the job search.


Leave a Comment (real names only please)

Previous post:

Next post: