Your Problems Aren’t the Problem
…so stop the excuses and do what you really want to do.
You tell yourself every day you would totally ______, if it wasn’t for (insert problem/obstacle).”
Would you? Would you really? Last year, Marie Forleo (goddess of getting real and making shit happen) suggested in an audio teaching that we force ourselves to replace “I can’t” with “I won’t” in cases where we know (full well) “I won’t” is more accurate. Replace
“I can’t exercise every day…” or
“I can’t spend more time with family…” or
“I can’t leave on time…” or
“I can’t start my own business….”
“I won’t exercise every day …” or
“I won’t spend more time with family…” or
“I won’t leave on time …” or
“I won’t start my own business….”
Has a different feel, doesn’t it?
“I can’t” gives us an easy out. It relieves us of the responsibility for follow-through and yet (we think) entitles us to self-awarded brownie points for wanting to do what we believe is the right thing for us (or the right thing in general). “I want to exercise every day, but I can’t” sounds honorable, doesn’t it? “I want to exercise every day, but I won’t?”
Not so much.
As hard as it may be to face, relief from that niggling voice in your head — the one working so bloody hard to urge you toward what would bring you greater health, peace, satisfaction, or (fill in the blank) — will only come when you stop bullshitting yourself (and others, too) and turn “I can’t” into “I won’t,” “I won’t” into “I will,” and “I will” into “I am.”
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby
Are your limitations — your “problems” — real, or have you manufactured them or at least exaggerated them in your own mind to avoid what you fear? I can’t offer scientific proof, but I feel completely safe arguing that, for all the very real obstacles (injuries, financial struggles) that make things more difficult for us, most of our talk of limitations is nothing more than
a) tired excuses we use to justify “waiting” when in fact we would have acted already if we weren’t terrified we don’t have what it takes to succeed, or afraid of what will happen next if we do succeed, or afraid of the accountability that comes with stepping up to the plate
b) it’s a palatable alternative to admitting our claims about wishing we could do this and that are really total BS, a way for us to appropriate (in our own minds, at least) the character, wisdom, self-discipline, empathy, etc. that earns our respect for those who actually act on the priorities we claim to have.
I mean, at heart, where it counts, we’re the same, that active, healthy, caring, motivated, successful person and I! Is it my fault I can’t do that thing and she-he can?
Are you being honest with yourself? Ask yourself a couple of simple questions:
Is this thing I keep saying I’d love to do “if only…” really something that matters to me? Or is it the idea of that thing I find so attractive?
Maybe you so admire people with that interest/career/achievement that it feels good to imagine yourself sharing their traits and goals, but the truth is, that’s their thing, not yours. You might say in your most dejected voice, “I’d be that guy running past my house every day if it wasn’t for…” but would you? If so, unless you’ve already been that guy, you’d better prove it to yourself. If you can’t run right now, do something — anything — to move toward that goal. But out of respect for yourself and the people around you, don’t be satisfied with words; put up or shut up. (I’ve come to think the best motivator of all is to do first then talk about how much that thing means to you.)
And importantly, recognize that it’s ok to be you — even if that means that, as much as you admire people who run 15 miles every damn day, come tropical heat or mid-winter blizzard; or who join the Peace Corps; or who build financial empires; or who volunteer at the homeless shelter every week, the fact that you aren’t that person doesn’t mean you’re less honorable than they. It simply means you aren’t them. Stop thinking about how you should be them so that your mind is freed up to discover what you value… who you want to be.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to emulate those we respect and admire; the trouble comes when believe we’re emulating them simply by imagining we’re like them, without requiring ourselves to produce any real evidence. It’s easy to say you would do something if you could; it costs us nothing but progress and carries its own small benefit in the form of a self-image boost. But even we can’t know if we are what we say (and even believe) we are until we offer ourselves proof, and that meager self-image boost is a sad surrogate for the real thing.
Is this want-to totally, really-real?
If your “want to” is real… if you live every day knowing you’ll never feel you finished what you came here to do unless you (fill in the blank), yet you’ve exhausted every excuse in the book to avoid it doing it, it’s time to stop the BS and, as scary as it is, give yourself a chance to fail so that you have a chance to succeed.
Where you know it applies, be brave enough to say, “I won’t” instead of “I can’t” from now on, and if you hate how that feels, change it. Take one giant, fear-smashing leap or execute consistent, logical steps, one after another until your fears — these fears, at least — are behind you, and you find yourself newly courageous, optimistic, even, and ready to face the new scary things.