Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let Me Digress ...

In my management and supervision course, it discusses two types of people when it comes to problems on the job:  opportunity thinkers, who focus on finding ways to solve the problem; and obstacle thinkers, who simply accept difficulties as the end of the story and give up.  As I thought about this concept, I decided there was an additional way to look at it.  There are two types of people:  external-problem people and internal-problem people.

When external-problem people are confronted with a problem, they attribute it to the circumstances.  In school, the class is too hard or the teacher is unfair; on the job, the boss is out to get me or the equipment is subpar.  When internal-problem people are confronted with a problem, they attribute it to themselves.  I need to try harder, come up with memory hooks, or treat the equipment more gently.

Internal-problem people are generally more likely to come up with a solution, because they believe the situation is in their hands.  They have taken responsibility for their circumstances and improving them.  It doesn't necessarily matter if their perspective is correct; a sunny disposition might just turn the unfair boss around.

However, being an internal-problem person isn't always positive, and being an external-problem person isn't always negative.  Sometimes, the equipment really does need to be replaced, and all the gentle treatment in the world only delays the inevitable breakage.  An internal-problem person may beat themselves up trying to be something else when the true solution lies elsewhere.

Probably the best compromise is to first consider if the problem is internal:  is it something that you are doing, or something in your outlook?  If an honest assessment tells you that you're doing everything you can for the problem, then it is time to look outward.  And starting with a positive attitude - and opportunity thinking - will improve your odds of solving any problem.

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