Magic Bullet 1: Wouldn’t it be cool if life were simple?

by teresalaynebennett

photo of silver magic bullet

Sleek. Shiny. Silver. And totally ineffective.

You have a problem.
You ask around.
You hear about a magic bullet.
You get one.
You pop it into your six-shooter.
You fire it off.
Bingo-bango: problem solved.

Wouldn’t this be awesome – to know that all you have to do is find one magic bullet for your problem? But you’re an adult, and you know the scenario I’ve just described is a lie.

We all know life is complex. We all know its problems are also complex, resulting from a plethora of causative effects. We all know precious few of our problems are caused by one thing and can be obliterated by one shiny-silver, magic bullet. We ALL know these facts, and yet many of us spend a good portion of our waking hours pretending there is indeed the fairy-tale scenario I described above.

You’ve been paying attention.
So what do you see
as you look around?

Messed-up lives? Crumbling marriages? Self-sabotaged careers? Ruined health? If you’ve been paying attention, you know a ton of bad decisions (and perhaps a small amount of bad luck) created those messes. But rather than sort through the debris and develop a realistic action plan, more likely those people you’ve been observing grasped at one, quick-and-easy answer – the proverbial magic bullet.

  • I’ll go to rehab for a month, and the staff will help me kick my habit.”
  • It’s just stress. We’ll take a vacation to the Bahamas, and that’ll fix our marriage. Or maybe if we had a baby, that would bring us closer together.”
  • My boss needs to realize how talented I am and give me the raise I deserve.”
  • This new diet is the answer I’ve been looking for: it says I don’t even have to exercise because the weight will literally fall off!”

Of course, pay-attention person that you are, you’ve noticed that in all of these not-so-unusual statements, it’s someone or something else who’s being given the clean-up job. And did you notice that the clean-up job is assumed to be relatively simple?

What happens next?

You know what happens because you’ve been paying attention. They shoot off the magic bullet. Then they’re amazed and disgusted when it doesn’t fix the problem. Then they continue making the same mistakes which lead to:

  • more messed-up lives,
  • more crumbling marriages,
  • more sabotaged professions, and
  • more health issues.

What nonsensical,
paradoxical thinking we practice.

We intellectually acknowledge that life is complex and, therefore, its problems must also be complex. Yet we proceed to throw up our hands at life’s problems, jettison all reason, and reach for a magic bullet.

When faced with the apex of a health issue, a financial crisis, or a spouse walking out the door, we look around for one magic solution that will make it all better. We’ve not been paying attention. We’ve not been practicing critical thinking. And now we think if we could pop that one magic bullet into our six-shooter, we could solve our very major, very complex problem.

Why? Why? Why?
WHY do we do this to ourselves?

Know what I think? I think we tell ourselves that it’s just more than our feeble little minds can sort out. But, of course, that is also a lie. We can sort it out. We just have to pay attention AND ask some thorny questions.

  • Am I lazy? Am I not up for the arduous task of unraveling my problem and devising an action plan?
  • Am I undisciplined? Am I unwilling to follow my own action plan, even after I’ve spent considerable time creating it?
  • Am I blaming others? (Often we decide it’s easier to go through the mental-gymnastic rationalization of “_____ did this, so she’d better fix it” than to admit it’s our problem and we need to figure it out.)

Hard questions, aren’t they?

But the sooner we start honestly answering them, the sooner we’ll start the unraveling process of our lives’ stickiest messes. And as you’ve probably noticed, the longer we let the events and people of our lives get tangled up, the more unraveling we have to do.

Just so you know, I still stand by my premise that very ordinary, pay-attention people can live successful lives. In spite of that, though, you’ll never hear me claim that life itself is simple.

No siree. There is no magic solution, no magic bullet (except for the kitchen appliance). There are only complex lives, complex problems, and complex solutions. That’s the bad news. The good news? Though 99 percent of life’s problems are complex, paying attention will help you learn how to resolve them.

Keeping my promise to heap boatloads of embarrassment on myself, I’ll give some examples from my own life in future Magic Bullet posts, and you’ll see what I mean. (By now, my dignity is already shot, so I have nothing to lose.)

red box with white text of Dr. Temple Grandin's quote about there being no magic bullet

Famed lecturer & author of The Autistic Brain

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett