Refuse to acknowledge 'but' and 'if only' during 2010

January 4, 2010
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Life holds limitless possibilities. We all make choices every day, whether organizational, relational or emotional.

Additionally, individuals traditionally make resolutions to change during this time of year. People make intentional decisions to eliminate unhealthy behavior, to become part of the solution rather than be part of the problem, to lose weight, to exercise more, to find a new job — the list goes on and on.

We join health clubs. We order salads. We avoid “designer coffee drinks.” We focus our efforts on accomplishing our jobs, wasting less time and taking fewer breaks. Sadly, after a month or so, we tend to abandon our good intentions and revert back to our comfort zones.

What many of us do not recognize, however, is that simply taking action, rather than deferring it, often creates much more meaningful change than any simple “resolution” or intentional disruption of our status quo could ever create. 

I believe that complacency is the strongest of emotions — more powerful than love or hate — because it represents an acceptance of everything and a lack of conviction for anything. It cannot be argued or discussed; it is simply “existing” without living.

In my mind, complacency obscures any thoughts of change behind the mask of “But …” and then buries it forever beneath the surface of “If only.” People often justify their inaction by using these deferral words, only to find that avoidance fosters failure and that complacency often results in unintended consequences rather than the comfort they sought to retain. 

If you recognize any of these thought patterns, run from them as you enter the new year. Awareness — and the taking of action based on that awareness – is the key to overcoming complacency as you chart your new beginning: 

“I would have loved to attend college or a trade school but I couldn’t afford it. Now look at me: no work, no future, all because I couldn’t afford school.” 

College is expensive — and perhaps “not for everyone,” but some form of trade or specialized training is necessary in today’s world. An individual can no longer enjoy a rich life by taking a life-long job within a huge manufacturing facility without any special skills.

Today’s careers require both knowledge and demonstrated abilities, combined with the thought processes needed to apply them in such a way as to achieve practical solutions. College may help some to achieve their dreams, but others can do just as well by specializing and refining their abilities in other ways. The “but” here is only an excuse. We have control over our own lives; we must simply take action in order to exhibit this power.

“I could have made a difference in that organization (or in life) but I was fired (or dumped) for no reason!” 

While some people lose their job for “no apparent reason,” and others end relationships “through no fault of their own,” more often people do (or don’t do) the things that create their own situation. If an individual “could have made a difference,” I would question why he or she didn’t do so when given the opportunity. If a relationship “went bad,” what were you doing to nourish and maintain it when it was “good?”

In order to avoid blaming others for “things gone wrong,” we must often take intentional action before things go bad rather than waiting for the “book to be written” before wanting to rewrite the final chapter.

“I should have done things differently but I knew nobody would have listened anyway.”

How could you know if you didn’t speak up? Most people using this excuse assume that they won’t be heard. Did they truly have something worth saying when they had the opportunity? It has been said that the only bad question is one not asked. I would say that the same is true for actions: The only poor action is one not taken.

Nearly as frustrating (and equally as hopeless) is the individual who hides behind “If only …”

“I’d be living on easy street if only I’d been recognized for the contribution I personally made to my job (or my relationship).”

Far too often people expect a “return” for their efforts and are disappointed if they are not given one — immediately! People rarely find reward in individual accomplishment and satisfaction. It seems that rewards must come from “outside” rather than “inside” to be meaningful. 

If every situation (or relationship) were blanketed by an attitude of “how much can I give” rather than “how much will I receive,” we might find ourselves too engaged in accomplishment to seek excuses for failure.

“I’d be happy if only someone cared about me as much as I care about them.”

It is not possible for a person to make another feel good about him or herself. Caring about others is an admirable quality. Doing it with the expectation that another will return the feeling is folly. I’ve never seen a “conditionally caring” person happy, nor have I often seen the recipients of conditional caring return nearly as much as they receive. 

Self-defeating (and action-deferring) statements might make sense to someone looking to take the easy way in life, but not for someone passionately believing in human potential. I would urge you to abandon “if only” as an excuse, choosing instead to ask yourself, “If I were to do this, what would happen next?”

I would encourage people to get off their “buts” and move forward with positive, meaningful action. Only then will “if only” become “what if?” Only then will “I would have done this but for …” become “I’m glad I did this because …” 

Only then can the new year hold the promise of tomorrow rather than the memories of the past.

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