I remember weeding flower beds in our yard growing up. My mother would give us that little tool that looks similar to a screwdriver, except the metal end is shaped more like a triangle with two teeth-like points on the end. She would send us out, reminding us, “Make sure you get the roots!” This tool allowed us to dig down under the weed, twist to loosen the soil, and pull the weed out, with its roots.
Have you ever weeded an area of your yard or garden, only to find the weeds returned just days later? How frustrating! The problem with weeds is that if you just pull off the tips and leave the roots, they always grow back. The roots will merely sprout new blades, and often quickly.
When tackling life’s problems, we wonder why they seem to recur over and over. Like the weeds, we tend to pluck the simple part of the problem, but leave the underlying roots. The “root of the problem” gives way to a resurfacing of those same issues, and will continue to do so until the root itself is addressed.
Why do we avoid getting to the root cause of problems? Well, it’s like when we were younger and didn’t understand the plant and did not know there was a root present. To us, ripping out whatever was sticking up from the ground, leaving that area appearing weed-free, indicated that our work was done. So, in many cases, we simply do not realize that there are deeper issues at hand. We are human, after all, and it can be easy to not fully understand a situation or another person.
There comes a point after weeding an area several times, and having the weeds return again and again, that we should be able to figure out that something is wrong. Even if we don’t fully understand what’s going on, it makes sense that we have to change our tactics if we want different outcomes.
We also tend to be lazy. We’ll take the quick way out. So, we leave the roots, knowing the weeds will return, but things look better right now. And we get away with doing less work. Even knowing that the problem will return, and we will have more work to do later, we take the easy way out.
Have you ever tried to lose weight by opting for the quick-fix, crash diet? Have you ever paid off bills with a credit card, leaving yourself with another bill? Have you ever said things to a friend or your spouse that you knew they wanted to hear just to end an argument? Have you ever pushed everything under the bed when cleaning your room? Have you ever grabbed an energy drink to give yourself energy because you were so tired? Are you taking medication daily for a condition that could be corrected with lifestyle change?
These actions are like pulling the visible leaves, but leaving the root. They will require more work in the future. Our current medical system might be the most obvious example of trimming the leaves, but missing the roots. Most care is aimed at treating symptoms, rather than addressing the cause. If you are taking pain medication for back pain or headaches, the root of the problem is not being addressed. If you are taking an antacid for acid reflux, the root of the problem is not being corrected. If you are treating anything from constipation to allergies with medication, you are trimming the leaves, but the root stays put. And like weeds, all of the above-mentioned conditions come right back once the medication wears off. This is why you have to keep taking the medicine, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
So, when it comes to life’s problems, especially the ones that seem to keep recurring, you need to get to the root of those problems. It will take some increased work, and may require you to search out new strategies, but in the long run, getting to the root of the problem will lead to less stress, greater fulfillment, better outcomes, and will ultimately save you time.
You’re already expending energy and doing the work when pulling weeds, why not do it right, get the roots too, and reap the benefits that come from making long-lasting, more permanent, corrective change.