When I have ants in my kitchen, the ants are a symptom of a problem. The cause of the ants being in my kitchen is that I have crumbs on the countertops. That’s the root of the problem and the part that needs to be solved. I may need to find a way to temporarily relieve the symptoms – maybe gather the ants into a jar and let them outside – but if I only do that without solving the root problem then they’ll come right back.

Seem simple? It is until it isn’t.

Most problems you see are symptoms. Finding the root cause is the hard part. You don’t just have to dig. you have to do so scientifically and methodically. You have to identify a possible cause, research until you know everything about it, and then either logically deduce or test to determine whether it is the root.

Given this idea of root causes, you may see the world differently. When you have knee pain you may dig deeper instead of reaching for the pain reliever. Or when your dog misbehaves you may think about ways to change its lifestyle so it doesn’t do so in the future. Or when you encounter a million different situations you may handle them differently.