Mark Blasini


Three questions for understanding your situation


In my last post, I talked about how the starting point of solving a problem, overcoming a challenge, or resolving a crisis is not, as the Stoics recommend, to focus on what is "within" your control (i.e. your thoughts, actions, emotional reactions) and ignore what is "outside" of your control (i.e. everything else).

Rather the starting point is simply to shine some light on the situation - to try to understand it a little more deeply. And to withhold making assumptions.

Of course, "understanding" your situation sounds a little vague, so I'll try to narrow it down for you. The idea in any tough situation is to increase your sense of control over the situation. When you increase your sense of control, then you'll move towards a happier, more peaceful state of being.

Increasing one's sense of control can be a complex process, but I like to simplify it by asking three main questions:

  1. What do you want? A situation is only a problem or crisis or challenge as it pertains some goal you want to achieve or some state you want to be in. It is always important to understand why a situation is a problem for you. What is it stopping you from doing? What is it you want to achieve? This helps keep you from reacting. Elevate your perspective.
  2. Is the relationship between potential actions and results clear to you? In other words, do you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to identify what specific actions will lead to specific results? Is it clear to you that if you take action 'a,' for example, it will lead to 'x' result? Or that if someone else takes action 'b,' that it will lead to 'y' result?
  3. Do you have leverage? Is there any advantage that you have that you can use to help you advance in your situation? Do you have friendships or alliances that can help? Do you have a position of authority or influence that can serve you? Do you have a reputation that will assist? Do you have personal strengths, like patience or confidence, that can shine? Any little bit helps, so it is important to understand this.

Asking these three questions repeatedly will help you get a better grasp of your situation - of what you can control and can't control, as well as what "increasing one's sense of control" really means in the situation.