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How Big is your "BUT?"

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

How Big Is Your "But?"

Please note the spelling! This article is NOT a stepping off point for a journey into weight loss; it is about the words that come OUT of your mouth.

We all have hopes and dreams, thoughts and wishes for a life to live that is somehow twinkling in the lights just past our reach. No matter how hard we try to reach it, we simply don’t succeed. We’re constantly striving for perfection, for the better thing to own or the more exciting place to be and frequently comparing ourselves, and our progress to others. Every year we make (and usually break) resolutions. When encouraged, we might also set a goal, as in a concrete step towards achieving our dreams. And all too often we set goals that we don’t achieve and we justify this with a ‘but’.

What do your “buts” sound like?

“I wanted to …but I ran out of time.”

“It sounded like fun …but I just didn’t feel like going.”

“I would like to do that …but I don’t have enough energy.”

“I’d love to own a … insert object of desire but I don’t have any money.”

If any of the statements above sound like something you’d say, you have a ‘BUT’ problem. Why is this a problem? There’s a saying, “Everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit.” Self explanatory and true. The ‘but’ is an excuse, a justification for why you’re not doing what you’d like to do, living like you’d like to live, or achieving what you said you’d do.

Your words are some of your thoughts out loud. They may be spoken words, or they may be written words. Either way, they are simply reflecting your thought processes. Good to know, because once you get into the habit of listening to yourself you’re in the perfect place to be:

Notice - This is what I said.

Interesting - Did I really say that?

Curious - I wonder why I said that?

Explain - (to yourself) this is the thought that made me say that.

Being able to notice what you have said and know what your BUT is about is so empowering. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on your language and trace it back to the thought you are having that gives the justification for your BUT. When you know what your thought is, you will be able to see how you feel about that thought and what actions that feeling is prompting you to take.

I’ll give you a real life example from a client of mine, let's call her Candy. Candy is a solo parent of three children. Her ex isn’t in their lives in any particular way and Candy has sole care and custody of the children. She works full time and would love to leave the job she is doing and change careers. So far, she hasn’t found the time, energy or money she needs to retrain. She has started court proceedings against her ex and is following the frustratingly slow process in order to get a financial settlement. These are her words, “Once this is sorted out and I have a lump sum payment I will be able to make the changes I need. I’d like to do it now, but until I get some $$ behind me I can’t.” Given that Candy works long hours and also runs a family by herself many people would say that her BUT is pretty significant. However, we managed to find a few ways around this. Who knows how long the court proceedings could take? Candy could potentially have been stuck for years with a slowly deteriorating financial situation, kids who were getting less than they deserved and working a job that depleted her energy. We started a change process, that while slow, put Candy in the driving seat once her court settlement arrived. I won’t go into all the details in this article, instead I’ll provide an overview:

  1. Nail her why. Candy needed to figure out what she wanted to be working at and why that was important to her.

  2. Figure out the most valuable use of her time, by looking at her daily calendar and deciding which time soaks weren’t important enough for her to invest in and change things accordingly.

  3. Talk to her kids and get their buy in. When they knew her why they were happy to help out.

  4. Carve out small amounts of time to work on her why. Initially this was 10 minutes a day on weekdays and 35 minutes on the weekends. A grand total of 2 hours every week.

  5. Make small tweaks to exercise routines and nutritional supplements so Candy had a consistent stream of energy to rely on.

Just knowing she was in charge of the process and away from the dictates of her ex and the court system were enough to get Candy started. With new daily habits becoming entrenched, she had time to learn the information she needed to learn to be considered as a starter in her new field. And, when she did begin applying for employment she found to her delight that life experience also counted. That meant she began on a higher wage than she’d anticipated and she was able to transition from her old career to a new career without a significant amount of capital investment. Not only were Candy’s kids proud of her achievements, they were also proud of themselves for being able to pitch in and help her turn things around. And now that the court settlement has been processed, Candy has way more options available to her than if she’d been a newcomer to her chosen field of work. Did she let her BUT stop her? No, because her why was stronger.

We all face adversity from time to time and end up working through life challenges we weren’t expecting. While they may be unwelcome, those challenges don’t have to define you or stop you for long. Contained within each challenge is the seed of new learning, ready for use when you find it. What excuses do you make? Listen to the word BUT as it comes out of your mouth and notice. To what degree are you taking responsibility for your life?

Thousands of years ago Lao Tzo nailed it when he said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

We are in charge of our lives. Don’t get stopped by your BUT.

If you have a BUT to deal with, book a call and get it sorted. No buts.

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