I just turned 40.
In the last few days as the clock ticked towards my 40th year on earth, I started to ponder about my life and what I have learnt. I started to search the net for good questions to ask and came across a host of simple but good ones.
What is my greatest accomplishment?
Is this what I want to be doing?
If today is the last day of my life, what would I be doing?
Every morning, ask yourself “Are you happy?” If the answer is no for 3 days in a row, then you should consider doing something else.
Then I thought to myself, if I can only ask one question, is there one that could change everything? That magic question is,
“Where am I wrong?”
When things go wrong, the focus is hardly on ourselves. We always look at others and try to assign blame outwards.
From war to peace
If the people who wage wars and retaliate (because it’s always the other party’s fault) were to ask themselves first “where are ‘we’ wrong?” instead of “where are ‘they’ wrong?”, wars could be avoided.
Let’s take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A pessimist would say that there is no hope for a permanent solution, and the only thing we can do is to mitigate the conflict in order to minimize collateral damages.
From what I can understand, a majority of Israelis and Palestinian, accepts a two-state solution as a means of solving the conflict. One can argue that the conflict is very complex and has its roots in the late 19th century; but I refuse to believe that the complexity of the problem is the biggest challenge. What if the leaders of Israel and Palestine would ask themselves “where am I wrong?”.
I believe that one day a new generation of leaders will be brave enough to ask the “right” question; and that will be the start of a successful road to peace.
In a poorly run company, staff will blame management for poor leadership; management will look at staff and call it incompetence.
“Passing the buck” (blaming others for your mistakes) is a terrible flaw and a very “unattractive” personal habit. Eventually this behavior to always blame others (or external circumstances) can be the norm in an organization.
If you are a leader you can change this. Ask yourself “where am I wrong as a leader?” Pick something to improve so that everyone focuses more on improving than “judging”. Be honest with your shortcomings and learn from your mistakes.
Personal and business relationships
In personal relationships, if we first ask this question before trying to defend our actions, we may see less broken relationships, divorce rates, conflicts in families, etc.
It’s the same in business relationships. Our first instinct is to find fault with the clients or our partners. We can change this by first asking ourselves: “where we are wrong?”
We have to stop blaming others, misleading and “putting a spin on things”. Remember that your distrust of others will often justify their distrust of you. Stop exaggerating, say it like it is and do the right thing .
Of course, when we ask ourselves where am I wrong, it doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in ourselves, that we are not confident or that we need to take responsibility for things that are not our fault. It simply means we should first look at ourselves and see how we can make things right or better. Why? Because there are many situations that are beyond our control, but the one thing that we do have control over is how we think and how we act in that situation.
But for many, where am I wrong is a hard question to ask. It’s hard because it feels really bad to be wrong. Our self-esteem is threatened. Our pride is hurt. It also doesn’t help that as young children, we are punished for mistakes and it feels bad. And so we are “conditioned” over time to always want to argue that we are right.
You may not be turning 40 but half of 2015 is almost gone and companies typically stop to take stock with a mid year review. Whether you have to do a review for your company, your team, or just yourself, “Where am I wrong?” is a good place to start.