What’s going on? What needs to be done?

by Michael Mitchell

Something’s got me puzzled right now.

This blog is not the forum to talk about exactly what it is that’s got me puzzled, but it’s a good place to talk about the process of how I handle puzzling situations.

Anytime I’m puzzled by something, I always try to ask at least two questions: 1.) What’s going on here? and 2.) What needs to be done?

I ask the first question to try to better understand all the factors behind whatever is causing the particular issue. I find that if I can at least get my mind around what’s going on, even though I may still not know what to do, I will at least have some peace in the midst of a complex problem.

After I’ve asked that first question (noticed I said, “asked” not “answered”), it is then and only then that I start trying to figure out what needs to be done. This is much easier in certain situations than it is in others.

I’m driving down the road and I here a thump, thump, thump, thump, thump and my car starts to jerk a little.

What’s going on here?

I think I might have a flat tire.

What needs to be done?

I need to pull over safely and change the tire.

Boom! Done.

That’s an easy example. It’s usually not that simple. And yet, I have found that by asking these two questions I can usually simplify anything that’s puzzling me down to the three or four main factors behind it, and eventually I work out some sort of plan for dealing with the issue.

It doesn’t always happen as quickly as in the example above with the flat tire, but sooner or later, if I’ve put in the time to try to figure out what’s going on in a particular situation, I can usually figure out what needs to be done.

I think too many men (but probably women also) get in trouble because they spend too much time trying to answer one of these two questions and not enough time on the other.

If you spend all your time trying to figure out what’s going on, you’ll be informed… but without action, all your thinking isn’t worth very much. If you spend all your time on the first question, don’t expect a lot of change.

If you spend all your time on trying to figure out what needs to be done without seeking first to understand the issue, your attempts at action will most likely be less than fruitful. When I think about focusing on the second question without getting my mind around what’s going on, the image of someone simply spinning their wheels on a stationary bike comes to mind. They may be peddling awfully fast, but they aren’t getting anywhere.

What’s going on?


What needs to be done about it?

Two simple questions that if you actually spend some time seriously thinking about will complete change the way you solve problems.

What’s puzzling you right now?


Michael Mitchell is an (almost) thirty-something dad who blogs daily tips and life lessons for dads of daughters at lifetoheryears.com. While consuming copious quantities of life from a glass that’s usually half-full, he spends the majority of his days trying to balance his efforts to be a good husband & dad, a man of God, a professional raiser of philanthropic funds, and a defender of all things awesome. On the rare occasion he’s not tied up with all of that, he enjoys fighting street gangs for local charities and stuff like that.