“Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a PROFOUND tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there.” Dr. M. Scott Peck

Discovering areas of your life and/or business that require some work to improve is a meaningful first step in the change process. Alone, however, it’s insufficient. Life rewards action. I’ve found that doing things differently in the future than in the past requires tough-minded discipline – a fierce dedication to doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done – every time! Old behavior patterns are difficult to break. The fact that they are patterns suggests that they’ve been repeated, reinforced and repeated over and over again.

I’ve developed an analysis process for people courageous enough to

  • explore the reasons for their patterns.
  • consider the consequences of their choices and actions.
  • align their actions with their espoused priorities.

I call this process the Brutal Truth. Notice the subtitle: get real, get tough, get going. I believe that any relevant change requires those three major action steps.

Get Real
This concerns rigorous, relentless honesty and objectivity. It requires confronting things as they are, not as you’d like them to be.

Get Tough
This step deals with developing the thick skin and character required to be tough-minded as a way of life; however, don't infer hard-headedness or cold-heartedness. The former characterizes people who resist input or feedback that challenges their preconceptions; the latter describes those who punish either themselves or others for the "way things are."

Get Going
I've worked with many people adept at honesty, objectivity and tough-mindedness who unfortunately accomplish nothing. They know what to do, but they never actually do it. Again, you must remember that life rewards action.

The Framework
The following questionnaire will take you from intention to action on any given issue. An explanation/elaboration follows each question.

I. What is the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

Refer to an issue that you determined to be a priority. For example, you may have decided that competition is endangering your business.

II. What evidence do you have that confirms that this is a problem, opportunity or issue requiring attention?

  • What are the data and hard facts?
  • What does your intuition tell you?
  • To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

Webster defines truth as "the body of real things, events, and facts." The operative words are "real" and "facts." Real facts are unassailable; they’re indisputable; they just are. They pass the test of "reasonable scientific certainty." 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact. "My business is teetering on failure because of competition" is not a fact.

The Brutal Truth is the state of certainty to which successful people aspire. It implies fact-based analysis and decision-making. It differentiates facts from legitimate but incomplete intuition. It requires the ego-less testing of assumptions and the relentless scrutiny of preconceptions. It explains results in terms of valid reasons, but it never translates reasons into excuses.

Arriving at the Brutal Truth is difficult. As humans, we all cling to our own ideas and perspectives as if they represent the truth rather than merely our truth. It's a protective mechanism that helps us make sense out of nonsense, bring order to chaos, and validate our own rules for how the world works.

The "subquestions" in this section are designed to get you to the real issue.

III. After answering the second question, is your answer to the first question still the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

After putting your issue through the truth test in question II, has your answer to the first question changed? Perhaps, for example, your original assumption merely scratched the surface. The issue you identified is really only a symptom of something deeper or something else. This question is a good checkpoint, and a place to stop and reassess.

IV. To the best of your knowledge, what are the causes of #1 being a problem, opportunity or issue worth your attention?

  • What are the data and hard facts?
  • What does your intuition tell you?
  • To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

This question intends to get at the root cause(s) of your answer to question I. The subquestions, identical to those in II, will aid in getting to an answer that is as close to being objective as possible.

V. What will happen if you do nothing?

Actions have consequences; so does inaction. On occasion, a problem requires no action. This question highlights this fact.

VI. What are your desired results?

Remember – to be legitimate, results must either be measurable or observable.

VII. What alternative actions can you take to bring about the results you want?

  • What obstacles must be overcome?
  • What opportunities exist?
  • What strengths can be leveraged?
  • What are the possible unintended consequences that may occur as a result of the alternative actions you documented?
  • What will the "cause and effect" time span be between each of the alternative actions and the results you want?

This (number VII) is the source for your objectives and action plans. The reason for considering alternatives is to put each to the test of the sub-questions that follow. A few points about those:

• Every action we take to produce a result we want confronts obstacles. You need to identify those of which you are aware and document them. Some may be more subtle and tougher to identify than others. Some may test your will more than others. Answering this question, in a rigorous way and to the degree that you can, will provide two benefits. First, it will help you accept the fact that personal change requires conviction, will, discipline and a very thick skin. Second, it'll help you consider appropriate actions for the time when those obstacles arise.

• Issues are best dealt with, opportunities are best exploited, and problems are best solved by dealing from strength. Peter Drucker once said that the primary job of management is to "make strength productive and render weakness irrelevant." He was speaking from an organizational context, but the situation is no different for you as an individual. Leveraging your strengths will help you to build momentum more quickly and to achieve the results you want.

• Two of the immutable rules of cause and effect: All causes have unintended effects, and cause and effect are almost always remote in time and place. When you take an action, something(s) you didn't expect is (are) going to happen. Also, when you take an action, your desired result will almost never happen immediately. Knowing this in advance will help you confront your impatience and craft reasonable timelines both on paper and in your psyche.

There you have it. Effective problem solving requires effective reasoning. That, in turn, requires relentless dedication to the truth regardless of the cost or consequences.

Copyright 2015 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com