I was recently talking with an acquaintance who has a baby nearly the same age as our youngest son.
I hadn’t seen her in quite some time, and she was lamenting the fact that she had to go back to work from maternity leave. Eventually the conversation turned to her asking me when I was due to go back.
I explained that I had retired, and wouldn’t be heading back to work.
This launched our conversation down an interesting path.
She immediately exclaimed how lucky I was, and how she would do anything to stay at home with her son.
I agreed with her that I was very fortunate, but commented that I felt it was something that with some planning and follow through, nearly everyone could accomplish. That if early retirement was something she wanted to pursue, she could achieve it in a relatively short period of time.
This earned me a prompt and forceful scoff. Followed by the response that she absolutely had to work, she simply had no choice.
I was aware that her work skills were ideal for establishing a home based business, and asked if she had considered working from home.
This won me a heavy eyeroll. Along with the answer that it would never work, she would have to build a reliable clientele base, which would entail a lot of work, and was not something she had any interest in doing. (Wait a minute……I swear you just said you’d do anything to not go back to work…..????)
Perhaps building a client base was something she could do over a year or two I inquired? Maybe return to work in the short term, and plan to transition to working from home? Or while working at her current job, seek an employer who would allow her to work from home some days of the week? While not immediate it might allow for a slow transition, with less risk or disruption of income.
She considered these suggestions for a grand total of zero seconds before dishing up her objections: it would be too difficult, too much work, and it just wasn’t an option.
She was destined to have to work, with a long commute, and there was simply no alternative options. Or so her responses would lead one to believe.
But in our relatively short exchange, what became incredibly clear was that she didn’t want alternative options at all.
She wanted to complain about her circumstances in life, while attributing my retirement to a stroke of good fortune and convincing herself that it was not attainable in her own life.
Our conversation left me questioning why so many people these days will openly wish for things in their life to be different, but when asked what they can do to make it happen, they resort to an “I can’t” position.
In my opinion, resorting to “I can’t” as a first line response is a total cop out.
It alleviates people of the responsibility for where they are in life, or where they are going.
Its also an absolute guarantee that you’ll prove yourself right.
When you approach anything in life with that “I can’t” attitude, odds are you’ll never see the opportunities in front of you, because if you already think it’s not possible, you arent even looking for them.
Not to mention that the vast majority of the time, “I cant” really boils down to “I don’t want to”.
Now I’m not one of those people who thinks that you can change your whole life just by thinking positive thoughts. There has to be some action to go along with it. But if you find you or someone in your life has a tendency to resort to the “I can’t” position as a first line of defence against change, the next question that should be asked is why not?
Yes, there are many things in life where the ultimate answer might actually be that you can’t, but when the question of “why not” follows, if you truly can’t, you should have some very clear reasons why that is the case.
If you don’t have those clear reasons, maybe that “I can’t” is more of a hasty assumption than a reality.
At least by questioning that assumption you’ll force yourself to back up your position.
Life isn’t happening to us, we have choice and the ability to dramatically change our paths. But when our first reaction to new possibilities is “I can’t”, then we’ve mentally given up ownership of those choices.
So the next time you find yourself about to utter those two words, try the glass half full approach and assume you can until proven otherwise. Chances are, you’ll probably be right.