Saturday, November 1, 2008

What’s the problem?

“My brain is so dumb!” exclaimed an exasperated co-worker, and I laughed.

“That’s a new one,” I said. “I’ve never hear someone blaming an errant body part for their own mistakes. Stupid brain!”

She smiled, realizing how silly her statement was.

Later that day I saw more silliness in a news headline from Associated Press: “Obesity blamed for doubling rate of diabetes cases.”

Stupid obesity!

So often we play what I call “the blame game.” Jimmy Buffet illustrated some breakthrough logic in Margaritaville in 1977. He subtlety changes the chorus through three verses. Notice his progression:

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know, It’s nobody’s fault

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
Now I think
Hell, it could be my fault

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault

Go Jimmy!

What’s the solution?

By way of contrast I remembered reading another headline, this time from the Washington Post: Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk

The solution must be vigorous exercise! I want to meet this miracle worker!

According to one Thesaurus, the opposite of blame is applause. Perhaps we can find solutions by looking for what’s applaudable instead of what’s to blame. This may get us closer to workable solutions, but I still think we’re a bit off.

Where’s the problem?

Just as Jimmy discovered, maybe the problem isn’t out there, maybe it’s in me. And maybe the solution isn’t out there either. Maybe it’s in me.

I’ve found that the six most powerful words for maintaining a relationship are, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Problems in my relationships are often solved by taking ownership of my actions.

So what about those two articles? Maybe the lessons are…

If you act in ways that lead to obesity, you increase your risk of illness.

If you act in ways that lead to vigorous exercising, you increase the likelihood of wellness.

Obesity is not the problem, and exercise is not the solution. The problem is how I act. The solution is how I act.

How can I change the way I act? How can I improve my habits?

I think asking these questions are better than playing the “blame game.” I think these questions can lead to breakthrough solutions that improve who we are and who we become.

Ponder that.


  1. Since you're an educator, have you heard of Love & Logic? It's very close to the great points you've made here, and it has worked wonders for me in the past.

  2. No I haven't. Now you've given me another research project! (PS: How's your poem coming?) ;-)

  3. LOL! I'm not a poet. I write novels. BUT, I do appreciate good poetry every now and then; I like to marvel at people who can say things in a few sentences that would take me a good chapter or two. :-P

  4. Hi Don,
    I'm a retired teacher. We used William Glasser's Reality Therapy in our schools, but we called it "Responsibility Training" or RT. It helped the students realize who was responsible for their actions. None of that "So-and-so made me angry...." We choose to become angry.

    We refused to accept the word "try" ---referring to Yoda's "Do or do not; there is no try."

    Have you ever noticed that if something good happens to us, it is because of our own talent, intelligence, foresight, & perseverance? But if something bad happens, it's because our boss doesn't like us, a resentful coworker, or just bad luck?

    In RT, the best thing I could say to a student who wasn't doing what s/he was supposed to be doing was "What are you doing?" No matter what the answer, even if it was "Nothing" I could then respond with "What are you supposed to be doing?" and then, "Can I count on you to start doing _____ now?" It worked well for me and also works for parents.

    I see you work with special education students, so it may not work as well, especially with those with short attention spans or those who have trouble foreseeing consequences, but I had luck with it even with those students mainstreamed into my classes.