Doing Something New - Part 3: Lose the "But!" / by Marc Purslow

In my previous blog post Doing Something New - Part 2: Why You Should Love to Fail, I discussed the difference between failure and disinterest, and stated that when we mistake failure for disinterest we risk dealing an unnecessary blow to our self-esteem. Creating a life consisting only of things we are truly interested in is a worthy goal; however, it may be challenging to eliminate some things we’d rather avoid doing (shoveling snow, paying utility bills, etc). That said, most people don’t significantly link their self-worth with such things. Usually, the things that affect us are “bigger,” such as our work, relationships, and other significant activities.

But wouldn’t we know if we weren’t interested in doing something? Wouldn’t it be obvious? Maybe not. A whole host of influences can “drive” us towards something that may not be our true interest, while simultaneously fooling us into believing that we’ve been behind the wheel the whole time. The real or perceived opinions of our family, peers, and society as a whole can be quite powerful and can often feel like a hard set of rules. When we view these “rules” as a framework within which we must operate, we can significantly limit our options – and we may not even be aware that we’re doing it! We may then forget that there are other things outside of our “framework.” This can become a real problem when that’s where one or more of our true desires lives.

Consider this example: At a young age Jake was “directed” towards being a doctor by his parents and siblings who were all doctors. As a result, the medical profession became Jake’s framework. Jake chose pediatrics, thinking it was his choice entirely. But here’s the catch: deep down, Jake didn’t want to be a doctor. He wanted to be a musician.  Jake tried hard to get through medical school, but it was against the grain of his true desire, so he never benefited from the unwavering motivation that passion creates. Jake felt depressed, unfulfilled, and confused because he thought he wanted to be a doctor. Because Jake’s framework was so engrained, he wasn’t consciously aware that he didn’t.

So how do we “trick” ourselves into thinking outside of our framework? Here’s an exercise called Lose the "But!” which can help:

  1. List 3 things you’d love to do that you think are impossible on a sheet of paper in this format:
    I want to (write the “crazy” idea here) but (write the reason it would never work here).
    To make step 2 easier, make sure you put all the “buts” in the same horizontal location. The goal is to keep all your ideas on the left side and all the "buts" on the right side. Click here for a printable page.
  2. Fold the sheet of paper in half vertically, just to the left of the “buts” and cut it in half along the folded line. Put the right half away - it will be useful later.
  3. Hang your “No Buts” list somewhere that you will see it often.

This list should give you a glimpse of the things you want to do, even if they don’t fit within your current framework. Seeing these things in writing often will help them “soak in,” and after time you will stop seeing them as unreachable. But hold on! As much as we’d like to, we can’t just ignore the “buts.” Once your list doesn’t seem so crazy, and you feel courageous enough to give one of your ideas a go, you need to come up with a plan. In Doing Something New – Part 1: Believing in the Future You, I outline a method by which you can use precedence to create a focused approach to eliminating the "but(s)."

I use the Lose the "But!” method often, and writing it out in the way I’ve described really helps expedite the process. It’s how I convinced myself I could win motorcycle races, become a motivational speaker for kids, and ride my bicycle across the country!

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