Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

A deeper life (finding root causes)

[This is the fourth post in series, Plan2Change, about the possibility and process of personal growth. Check out part 12, and 3.]

There was a tree growing beside the driveway of our home in America. I am not sure what kind of tree it was, but we called it “the weed tree.”

It grew overnight. It was annoying. And it was difficult to kill.

Just like the bad habits between me and my goals.

James Wheeler (Creative Commons)

James Wheeler (Creative Commons)

I first noticed the weed tree when its branches grew out over the driveway. Turning into my house one day I heard a  scratching on the roof of the car. No problem. I grabbed the hack saw and removed the guilty branches.

A week later, the branches were back hanging over the driveway. Within the month, they were scraping the car again.

I turned to more drastic measures. With a hatchet and saw, I whacked away at the trunk of the weed tree. Three hours and numerous blisters later, the top half of the tree lay at the curb, cut up and waiting for collection. That night I slept well—I had taught nature a lesson. Don’t mess with me and my hack saw.

The next morning, as I left for work, I glanced at the decapitated tree and felt a sense of peace. Problem solved. Or so I thought.

By the end of the summer, the tree was back, as strong as ever, and threatening to overtake my driveway again.

Trimming branches had not worked.
Slicing the tree in two had not worked.
It was time to get serious. I needed to go for the roots.

If you’ve ever tried to dig up a tree by its roots, you know how hard the work is. Especially, if you don’t have the right tools. I spent an entire saturday with my hatchet and shovel hacking away at the endless root system. By sunset, the stump still would not budge.

I tossed and turned that night, not simply because my hands were swollen and red but because I was losing hope. I had tried everything I knew to remove the weed tree, but it kept coming back.

The next afternoon I decided to try once again. I severed every visible root but there was a base root directly under the trunk I couldn’t reach. About that time I heard a voice from the street, “Do you need some help?” It was one of my neighbors standing next to his pickup truck. I told him the situation. He said, “I’ll be right back.”

He returned a few minutes later with a chain. We wrapped the chain around the trunk of the tree and connected the other end to the back of his Ford F-250. Within a minute, the tree was completely uprooted. (I won’t tell you how I then danced around the yard and started taunting the fallen tree. “Who’s the man now, tree?”)

That day I learned an important lesson—[tweet_quote hashtags=”#change” ]for a change to last you need to dig up the roots.[/tweet_quote]

Root Causes

Last week’s challenge was to take an honest look at yourself to determine growth areas. How is your Real Self different than your Ideal Self ? Well, the honesty can’t stop there.

In order to experience real and lasting change in your life, you need to go deeper than the surface. We waste a lot of energy trimming trouble areas in our lives. We tidy up our exterior but we know there is no difference on the inside. The same problem returns or pops up in a different form. External change doesn’t last.

[tweet_quote hashtags=”#change” ]True change starts with the heart.[/tweet_quote]

Look back at one of the areas where you want to grow. Now ask yourself this question: What is the root cause?

One growth area I’m working on this year is challenging others (i.e. saying hard things). If I don’t learn to deliver difficult news, I will not to do my job well. I will let too much slide and just postpone problems until later—and later the problems will be bigger.

Here’s the thing, I usually know the right thing to say and I am pretty good when I get into the conversation. However, sometimes I struggle to open the topic.

If I stay at the surface level, I can learn some new tactics of bringing up difficult conversations. I can research some relaxation techniques to use before confronting someone. This may improve my skills, but it doesn’t go deep enough.

I need to dig out the roots in my heart.

When I look deeper, I realize I care too much what others think about me. I don’t want to confront others because I would rather them like me. In some ways, I’ve enslaved myself to the opinion of those around me. Every time I bring up a hard topic I risk losing respect.

If I really want to change in this area, I need to take a hatchet to these roots. I need to find acceptance somewhere other than the opinion of those I lead. If I can do that, the resulting problem weakens and maybe even goes away.

What are the root problems behind your growth area? Write them out.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

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  • troy mc laughlin

    Good words Josh. I’m encouraged and challenged. It’s much easier to be “surface oriented”. I think most of us suffer from people pleasing. I know I do. I’m looking for a backhoe instead of a hatchet.

    • Josh

      Nice call on the backhoe.

      I can always count on you to read my posts at the wee hours of the morning. 😉

  • Some of the root causes are longstanding thought patterns that are changing….one by one…in particular the verse you post is THE LIFE VERSE over my life…..all centered around the heart……good, good thoughts!