"I figured it out!"

man in cabinet
man in cabinet

"I figured it out!" That's an expression I use whenever I gloat over solving a problem.

In Richard Wetherill's book Right Is Might he writes, "Right decisions are found, not made." That was thought-provoking but tedious and time-consuming – or so I thought.

My mind is quick to make assumptions and judgments. I wonder why this or that is happening, and my mind fills in the blanks. It's an effortless process that's constantly going on.

The idea of finding the right decision seemed like extra work. I spent most of my career in a market research department. I knew that in order to do that job I needed to spend time and effort finding the facts to help make the best decisions. "But I can’t afford to do that in my everyday life," I thought to myself.

Recently I had two back-to-back experiences that brought the book passage back to mind.

I was helping a friend move, and we needed to reassemble his living room wall unit. It was three sections held tight together with mating pins and connecting cams. We pushed, pulled, twisted, called in some additional help, but it wouldn't go together. Finally, after physically exhausting ourselves, I decided to inspect what was going on. One mating pin was in too far for the connecting cam to grab it. It finally went together by pulling the pin to its correct position with a pair of pliers.

Did I figure it out? Could I thump my mental chest and think "aren’t I clever?" But it wasn't because I'm some genius. I saw what to do by inspecting the details of the situation. All I needed to do was look.

It wasn't long after that experience another one happened. I was helping a friend who could not get her sliding door to close. My guess was that something was wrong with the wheels that the sliding door sat on. I set about adjusting them, but the door still wouldn't close and lock. After a lot of time and frustration, I made arrangements for someone else to fix it. She took one look at the door and could see the outline of where a suction cup had been. Sure enough, the suction cup and hanging decoration had fallen and were wedged between the sliding doors. Once the items were retrieved, the door closed and locked easily. It took only minutes!

I walked away feeling silly. How did I miss the obvious? I found myself thinking, "Why do I always make things more complicated than they are?"

In both situations I had jumped to the conclusion that I knew what was wrong – which sent me down the wrong path and closed my mind to looking further into the details. Those two examples made Wetherill's point: inspecting the details of a problem also reveals the solution.

I began to think about my dealings with friends, family, and coworkers. My mind is quick to fill in the blank about their intentions. What they are thinking and doing. But the reality is I don't know what is going on in their mind. Even if they try to state it, perhaps they are making the same mistake of judging and forming assumptions.

Wetherill made it clear that if everyone intends to take the right action, which is logical, honest, and moral, then differences between people would simply be correctable misunderstandings. Misunderstandings result from not seeing all the pertinent pieces of reality that dictate the appropriate action. Misunderstandings are always easily correctable once that reality is seen.

With the living room wall unit and the sliding doors, I wanted to understand the problem and help resolve it. But with friends, family, and coworkers, I want their cooperation with whatever I want to do. I imagine they expect the same from me. The moment our wants are at odds with each other, we have a problem to resolve. Most likely, we both have the same "solution" in mind: stop interfering with what I want!

Wetherill writes, "The solution is for people to recognize the formula that works: reason from reality and not motives. But people's minds are locked in motives. In effect, their intelligence is insulated against the solution."

He made it clear that it benefits everyone when a person takes the right action. Right action works. It works without detriment of any sort. It not only serves my best interest but everyone else's as well. It is no more difficult than having a wall unit come together or sliding doors close and lock.