I spend all day with two 3-year-olds who gang up on me. My twin boys have figured out there is strength in numbers and it’s clear, even before breakfast, just how outnumbered I am.
They pout and whine for things they know they cannot have, trying to manipulate candy for breakfast, cereal for lunch or a reason to get out the markers (they’ve proven time and again they cannot be trusted with markers). And their sneaky little minds create double the possibilities — what one boy doesn’t think of the other does. Yesterday I actually asked, “please don’t use your toothbrush to clean the walls.”
It doesn’t actually matter what I’m asking or how legitimate my requests, my youngest son always responds, “Yeah, but …” and trails into an excuse. In fact, this conversation pattern happens so frequently, I’ve learned to quickly preempt him and declare, “no yeah-buts.”
As his parent, I don’t want to hear his excuses. Though I’m sure he has good intentions, it’s action I’m seeking.
Of course — as with most phrases our children say regularly — I’ve recently caught myself saying “Yeah, but” as I defend my own actions or present excuses.
I’ve had the same scary task on my 6 Most Important List every day for weeks. And every day I don’t accomplish it even though it has the potential to positively move my business forward. Why did I still not get it done today? The yeah-buts fill my mind: it’s too hard, I’m afraid, I don’t want to do it, I didn’t have enough time. But those are all excuses. The truth is: I’ll have to step out of my comfort zone, and I’m afraid I’ll fail.
Do you present excuses and yeah-buts to stay in your comfort zone?
Martha Beck, columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine, takes on the yeah-buts and defines them. “The ‘yeah’ pushes us toward our passion; the ‘but’ stops us dead in our tracks. Yeah-but prefaces infinite justifications for avoiding the things our hearts find compelling.” That is some powerful insight.
Here are some of the common excuses — or yeah-buts — that hold so many of us back from accomplishing what we know we need to do (and the truth behind those excuses).
I don’t have enough time.
It’s no secret, we all have exactly 24 hours in each day. We have no more or less than anyone else, though it often doesn’t feel that way. Using time as an excuse does not allow you to be honest with yourself. Often we tell others we don’t have enough time because we don’t want to tell them we are not interested or explain that what they are asking us to do is not important to us. We make time for the things that are important to us.
Time is also misused. Maybe we really could have used three more hours in the day, but it’s more likely we could have better used the 24 hours we did have.
It’s too hard.
Fear can paralyze us. As in my case, we can be so afraid of failure that we don’t even try. But rather than admit to the fear, we’d just like to believe the task at hand is too hard or beyond our capabilities. Chances are, however, we are strong enough and have had the ability all along.
The Dalai Lama put it best, “with realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
I don’t know where to start.
Usually getting started in the right direction is the hardest part. If a good Internet search isn’t enough to help, find the courage to reach out to someone who has accomplished what you hope to do and ask them to mentor you or offer advice.
With so much information available at the click of a mouse, not knowing where to start really is just an excuse.
I’m not good enough.
The thought often plagues you, “who do I think I am?” You may feel you don’t deserve the chance you have or the success you could achieve. The truth is, you have a special gift-mix that only you bring to the world. You are exactly what is needed.
And if others don’t like what you bring to the table, so what?
Martha Beck suggests, “The next time you hear yourself say “Yeah, but …,” ask yourself if you’re describing a genuine obstacle that cannot be circumnavigated. If not, do exactly what your yeah-but says you shouldn’t.”
This article originally published as a regular column on KSL.com