It doesn't sound like it makes sense at first.
"How the heck do you solve a problem that you don't even have?"
Well, I'll tell you how.
You don't get the problem in the first place.
The focus of this article is to talk to you about one of my favorite mottos of all time, which is:
It's always far, far better to prevent a problem from happening to begin with than it is to cause a problem and then try to fix it afterward.
The Defining Example
Let me tell you a story you've probably heard already.
There once was a happy-go-lucky, naive, loving, innocent, and jovial boy who wanted nothing more than to be friends with everybody and make the world a happy place.
He loved his family and wanted to make them happy. He wanted to do them proud and satisfy their expectations of him.
Yet, in their ever-so-loving ways, they made sure that for the first 18 years of his life, he would rarely hear the words "good job."
- They pushed him away, no matter how much he tried to hug them and love them.
- They painted his life with dark colors.
- They were never pleased with his attempts to make them happy.
They hurt him.
That boy is now an adult and has chosen not to be in contact with his family for the foreseeable future, giving them plenty of time, possibly the rest of their lives, to reflect on an impossible cure to a childhood of trauma and pain.
He wonders how different things could've looked if at any point they saw the error of their ways, or if they do now in hindsight.
But he also never forgets that fixing nearly two decades of damage is a much more difficult task than simply not utterly screwing up for that amount of time.
Sound familiar yet?
That boy is Lucas Hawthorne.
Saving Relationships, Time, Money, and Energy, All at Once
If it wasn't evident in the detailed example I provided above, I'll lay it out for you here:
- You can't cheat on your girlfriend and expect to be able to fix that damage. How about you just don't cheat to begin with?
- You can't lie to your best friend and expect their trust in you to stay at the level it was at before you lied. How about you just don't lie to begin with?
- You can't torment your child for years and expect that they're going to want to be in touch with you when they become an adult. How about you just don't torment them to begin with?
If you don't want to lose someone you care about, or supposedly care about, why don't you act like it and treat the relationship with love and care from the get-go?
In the case of the parenting example, there's no such thing as a perfect parent, and parenting is very much a thing you have to figure out as you go.
However, there's no excuse for screwing up for 18 years and being so blind to your own repeated failures, while ignorant to the damage you caused.
You might think it's a little harsh, but perhaps now you can see why I hold "prevention is better than cure" so closely to my heart. It's something I had to learn from a very young age.
Besides, I didn't ask for this. I was the one who wanted a family that loved each other and got along.
Interestingly, though, this adage doesn't just apply to your relationships.
When properly adhered to, it can also save you time, money, and energy, all at once.
Here are a few examples:
- You're cooking dinner for someone and you end up burning the food to the point where it's not edible. Now, you have to spend more time, money, and energy preparing other food, or redoing the initial dish, to feed your guest.
- You go out drinking and you get dangerously wasted. In your drunken stupor brought on by your lack of responsible drinking, you decide to get behind the wheel to get home. You get into a car accident, which leads to time, money, and energy costs spent in the hospital for you to recover.
- You make a delicious birthday cake for your beloved younger sibling. In your haste to hide the cake when they enter the room, you drop the cake on the floor, where it now belongs to the ants. Sure, the thought of you baking the cake counts, but you won't be getting back the time, money, or energy you expended to bake it.
You could write these off as mistakes, and I'd get it. I'm very well aware that no human being is perfect and that we all make mistakes.
Impossibility of Perfection Is Not an Excuse to Not Try
And I don't mean you have to try to be perfect.
Learn from your past mistakes and avoid repeating actions and behaviors that have led to unsatisfactory results.
Not being able to achieve perfection and a life where you make zero mistakes is not an excuse to be sloppy.
It's definitely not an excuse when it comes to things like your relationships or huge financial projects.
Screw up badly enough, and you'll scar something beyond repair. You'll burn a bridge, go bankrupt, or put your health at risk.
Once again, I want to eliminate any potential confusion of anyone reading this – this is not a call to action to tread through your own life on eggshells, frightened by the idea of making mistakes.
But if you want to get better at solving your problems while reducing costs to your time, money, energy, and health, get better at preventing problems before they make themselves known to your face.
Because sometimes, by the time that happens, it may be too late to fix.
Wisen up to what sparks your problems, and what makes them worse. Understand the ramifications if you don't fix them.
Take your problems to the lab and scientifically tackle them. Figure out what led to that result and reverse-engineer the process so you know what you have to avoid doing so that the problem doesn't happen again.
Do that well enough and for long enough, and you'll go from being a mad scientist to a happy scientist.