One word is holding us all back. It’s keeping us from reaching our full potential. It’s keeping us from being kind to others. It’s allowing us to doubt ourselves. It’s giving us an excuse.
That one word is, “but”.
How many times have you had a thought and then followed it up with, “but” and talked yourself out of it. As in “I’d love to x, but (insert excuse here).” and let the thought pass. When you see someone in need how many times have you wanted to help and thought, “That person needs x, but (lame excuse)” and did nothing. How many times have you been having a brave day and thought “I should do x, but (some down on yourself comment)” and then talked down to yourself.
I’m not saying we should follow through with every whim, but maybe we question ourselves when we hear that word come up. (Sometimes “but” is going to be ok. I’m just asking you to question it.)
There are real limitations in our lives. There are also completely made up limitations. Some of us go through life never questioning if what is holding us back is a real limitation or some fictional roadblock we’ve put in place ourselves. When we say the word “but” what we really need to do is look at the part that comes after in an honest way.
Sometimes “I want to travel, but I don’t have any money,” is a true statement. In that case a person that wants to travel looks for solutions to the problem of , “…but I don’t have any money.” Other times “…but I don’t have any money,” is an excuse for some other roadblock they’ve put in place. Both of the people making this statement could potentially save money if they wish to travel, but if fear is the real roadblock then that person will never be able to save the money to travel. No matter how many solutions are offered them they will never travel and they will always have another, “but.”
When it comes to giving to others we see tons of people with tons of different “but” statements…or a better way to put it, excuses. Now sometimes we can give to charity, and sometimes we are charity and that is understandable. However we all know people that can give, they may talk about giving, and they don’t. We hear things like, “I would give them a few dollars, but they’ll spend it on drugs.” I am the first to say that enabling an addict will in no way help them, however you also see people that examine the phrase, “…but they’ll spend it on drugs” and find other ways to help. We’ve seen people give addicts food, clothing or advice on where they can get help. That’s because, like in the example above of the person that wishes to travel, their “but” is based on an honest problem. For the person whose “but” is based in some other emotion (greed, anger, projection, even jealousy) they aren’t willing to try to help in any way. They use “but” to justify not helping without looking inward at what may be pretty unpleasant about them.
Finally we may use the word “but” to hold ourselves back. “I want to be a better person, but I don’t know how.” We hold ourselves back for many, many reasons. And I think we can learn a lot about ourselves from looking at our excuses in these areas. For instance, when we say we don’t know how, maybe what we’re really saying is that we feel incompetent and that’s the very place we need to start. We all have these inner voices that we don’t pay much attention to, but here is where they come to the surface and here is a good place to examine them. Instead of thinking things like, “…but I’m not smart enough,”, “…but I’m not pretty enough,”, or “…but I’m not good enough,” hold you back, realize that you’re thinking these things and question them. Why do you believe such a thing? When did you start believing it? Is it really true? Is there something you could do to make yourself feel like it’s not true anymore so you can move forward?
While this seems like a simple step, it can be difficult. We do so much on autopilot without even realizing it. It can be an easy first step toward moving toward a better you and a better life though. I will caution that while you can question other people’s “but” statements, this is really about you. You have enough baggage for you with out trying to play psychic with their baggage. When they’re ready to go through their baggage they will. Until then stick to your own “stuff”.
I hope that someone reads this and examines their own “but”. If you’ve found this helpful, please leave a comment below. I love to hear from people. Have you been holding yourself back? Can you take just a second to examine the excuses in your life so that you can move forward?