Often people will have one (darn) thing that is having an out-sized impact on performance or enjoyment. It’s like the Pareto Principle for problems. One thing can account for a large part of angst or irritation. On the flip side, the resolution of that one thing can have an out-sized positive impact.

For some, that one darn thing might be at work like a negative or unproductive relationship with a direct report or a boss. For others, that one darn thing might be more personal like discipline around time management, lack of confidence, negative habits around health, or some weak relationships. That one darn thing is probably something that is always taking up a lot of mental space and causing worry and irritation.

Do you have a one darn thing? If you do, here are four things you can do about it:

Acknowledge that there is a negative situation that matters to you. People often will sweep a problem under the rug or cover it over with a layer of justifications that understate the negative impact of the situation (ex. “it doesn’t matter” or “it’s not that bad”) and diminish the real level of control a person likely has.

Don’t tinker, tackle. Stop nibbling around the edges for a solution. Look for actions that will get to the heart of the matter. Likely this will involve less adaptation and more corrective action.

Clean house. Paraphrasing Marie Kondo, the de-cluttering guru, “Get rid if things that do not bring you joy.” Your one darn thing might be at the top of this list. Perhaps the resolution is not to fix the issue but to simply get that issue off your plate. My colleague Paul Rulkens (check out his TED Talk) uses the phrase “strategic quitting” and I think it is a particularly powerful strategy when it is clear that the resolution is to simply move on.

Don’t be so darn helpful. Many issues are caused by people taking on too much in the spirit of being helpful. People need to be assertive about your own needs first. Dr. Alan Weiss (author of Three Score and More and many other books) admonishes people to remember the instructions on airplanes and put on their own oxygen masks first and then consider helping others next.

Almost everyone has one darn thing that warrants close attention and more focus to resolve. If you have one, get after it. You will be glad you did.


[Look for more practical strategies to boost performance and enjoyment in my upcoming book Untenable: Addressing the Big Issues that are Ignored, Falsely Explained, or Inappropriately Tolerated]