As a rather pessimistic person myself, it has helped me recognize pessimism — and fear — in others. This pessimism can lead us to become stalled in life and frozen by fear. Like a deer in the headlights, we can’t decide what to do and are ultimately run over by the approaching car.
In the real world, it functions more like this. When faced with a challenge, we can find a million reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t take some action. I see this whether I am talking to friends informally or consulting with a client. Whenever we are faced with a difficult situation or looking for a new area of business, the negatives flow like water. We can’t do this because…They won’t allow that because… We don’t have the money to do that because.., This can go on for hours and leads us exactly…nowhere.
Partially this happens because we are approaching the situation from the wrong direction. We focus on the status quo. We focus on the problems. We focus on the can’t, shouldn’t, won’t of the situation. We can easily find a million reasons NOT to do something when, instead, we should be looking for the ONE reason we CAN do something. By turning the conversation on its head we can find the useful and productive things we CAN do and leave the problems behind. We have to break free of the pessimism that holds us in place. I am not asking, nor dreaming, that you will suddenly become a great optimist. I know this hasn’t happened for me. Rather, you and I need to work to change pessimistic inaction into realistic action.
Whenever I am faced with my own million reasons why not, I think of this quote…
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
No matter how dark the world becomes — no matter the adversity — no matter the roadblock — we can persevere. It is rare for us to find ourselves completely out of options, although sometimes it can feel that way. We find ourselves and our minds buried beneath the million reasons why not and can’t see the one reason why.
Part of what I do in my work is helping people find that one reason why. Sometimes, outside eyes can see things more clearly. I know that is true for myself. I often need the fresh vision of a friend or family member to help me clear the fog of my own thinking. It is simply a fact of human nature. We get locked into a single way of thinking. We also underestimate our own skills and intelligence just when we need it most.
So, take some time today and think about one of your most pressing issues. There are certainly more than enough issues these days, so picking one shouldn’t be a problem. Then, put aside the million reasons why NOT and start looking for the one reason, the one idea, the one change, the one single reason WHY you CAN and SHOULD do something different.
Once you find that reason, start working on making it happen. Take action. Then, as shampoo bottles everywhere advise — Rinse, and Repeat. Make this part of your everyday thinking and action. Take the next issue and find the next WHY and HOW, over and over.
It matters little whether you are “running, walking, or crawling.” All that matters is the forward movement towards the next great step in your life and career.