Confronting and solving problems is a hallmark of the successful character. But, your character has an equally important function regarding problems as well. In fact, it is the best way to solve a problem: The best way to solve a problem is not to have it to begin with.
Your character is like a great immune system against getting into bad situations. It senses them early on, and if something smells wrong, or not good enough, it just says no. It do not agree to things that do not fit its criteria, values or purposes. This is the other side of that quality: after the due diligence is done, and something is found lacking, one has the character ability to say, “No!”
I have a friend who once gave me some sage advice. He said that he finally got to a point in his life where he doesn’t do anything that involves the “cringe factor.” He said that he will not go forward in any deal or work with any person having a cringe factor. I did not know what that meant, so I asked him.
“That is the big gulp you would have to take to go forward,” he explained. “My rule is this: anytime I have to cringe or take a big gulp to agree to do anything substantial with anyone, whether to hire him, work with him, or anything significant, I don’t do it. I won’t go forward as long as the cringe factor is there. Period.”
Instantaneously I remembered times I had ignored the cringe factor. There were so many situations that I could recall where I had gone forward ignoring problem areas about a person or a deal, but took the big gulp only to have the big throw-up later. I had to learn that lesson the hard way, as most “optimists” do. We can get ourselves into messes that could have been avoided if we had paid attention to the writing on the wall and not taken the step where there was a cringe.
Here is a list of things that you might be telling yourself when a “cringe factor” arises:
- This doesn’t feel quite right.
- I really don’t feel comfortable doing this or agreeing to this.
- This is not what I really want.
- I don’t like what I am agreeing to, or part of me doesn’t.
- This violates an important value.
- I am going to resent this later.
- I am going to resent this for a long time.
- I resent this now.
- I wish this were not happening.
- This feels the same as the last time.
This is like the immune system for the character. It is about boundaries. It is like your skin. Your entire being is designed not to allow toxins into your system, body, or otherwise. Your skin keeps bad things out, unless a cut allows infection in. Your immune system keeps germs out by immediately dealing with them and saying, in effect, “no deal.” The germ is not allowed to become part of the body, but is destroyed and eliminated. And your character has to have the same functions as well, serving as the immune system for the things you agree to do or not do.
The best way to solve a problem is to not have it in the first place. When your immune system tells you something isn’t right, have the courage to say no.
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