Photo Credit: Josephine Amalie Paysen,
Photo Credit: Josephine Amalie Paysen,

Imagine walking along a mountain path on a summer morning. The sun’s high enough that the early morning has past, but the late morning has yet to come. The breeze is gentle and slightly cool. Birds of varying varieties make a large tapestry of sounds. Butterflies fly their seemingly random paths, but to the butterfly, every change in direction makes perfect sense.

And that’s when you see something twitching on a bush. The movement’s out of sync with the breeze. When you look closer, you see that it’s a chrysalis – the butterfly inside is trying to emerge!

And it appears to be struggling.

It looks like A LOT of work to break through the protective home and out into the world.

Those of us who often feel compelled to fix things may want to “help” the butterfly. Perhaps we can take out scissors, or a small knife, and help cut away some of the chrysalis to reduce the struggle.

But if we help, what happens? The butterfly dies.


The butterfly needs the struggle and pain in order to grow strong. By pushing its way out, blood vessels develop and widen so its wings can get the nutrients necessary for rigorous flight.

Those of us who love to fix problems and jump in to helping people–and I include myself in this group– may, at times, be denying others from the growth they need in order to get stronger.

Does this mean that we stop helping our fellow friends, family, and co-workers?

Not at all.

This means that we have an opportunity to shift our perspective in a way that supports others but detaches from the need to fix or take on their responsibilities.

How can our perspectives shift?

  • We see “problems to fix” instead as “opportunities for a win/win”
  • We see “taking on the responsibilities of others” instead as “empowering others to do their work using their strengths and talents”
  • We see success not as “I need to fix this problem to feel better,” but instead as “I control my effort (which includes no action) and I’m detached from the outcome”

And how do we make that shift?

First, we choose to be gentle with ourselves. Often, when we spend too much time fixing problems–serving others, saving others, or taking on their responsibilities–that we run out of energy. This is a time to come back and nurture ourselves and recharge our batteries, so to speak.

Once our energy’s back up, we can simply notice our tendency to jump in and solve someone else’s problem. And instead ask these questions:

  • By helping this person, how does that provide a benefit to me? This question doesn’t come from greed, but rather, from self care! Remember, we can run out of energy if we help too much. So, if you offer support in a way that benefits you and the other person, then you receive lasting positive energy that can keep your energy lifted.
  • Who’s responsibility is this task, really?
  • How can I empower this person to solve their problems?
  • How’s this struggle an opportunity for them to grow?

So let’s cross the T.E.A.s on these two perspectives:

“Fix It” Mode

Thought: I need to help.

Feeling: I empathetically feel the same emotions of the person I need to help. These emotions are commonly sadness, fear, or anger.

Action: I take on some or all of their work to reduce their suffering.

“Opportunity” Mode

Thought: I choose to help by empowering myself and others. I’m detached from the outcome.

Feeling: I feel joy and peace.

Action: I ask empowering questions, I set clear boundaries, and I ensure that what I do benefits myself AND others so that it’s a Win/Win!

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
-Bill Gates