Last semester I asked my students to share some advice. Specifically, I wanted to know what piece of wisdom they would pass along to first-year college students. What had they learned that would help the students coming behind them be successful in school—and life?
One student response stood out amongst the rest. In part he said, “They need to envision their dream and remember every single day why they are in college. When Monday rolls around, drag your but out of bed and get to class.”
Great advice. Simple and straightforward. As I read it a second time, I noticed a spelling error: “but” only had one “t” and it needed two (as in short for buttocks). The more I thought about it, however, my student had hit on something powerful. If we want to reach our goals, if we want to be successful, and if we want to have a life of significance, we need to drag our 2-T butt out of bed—and we need to drag our 1-T but out of bed.
Yes, to be successful we have to eliminate the word but from our vocabulary. That small three-letter word serves as a huge eraser for everything that comes before it in the sentence. Think about it:
- I know I need to get the gym BUT I am just not a morning person.
- I really want to lose weight BUT my schedule is too hectic to eat right.
- I need to spend more time with my family BUT I need to make the money while I can.
- I need to follow a budget BUT I have plenty of time to save for retirement.
But is a powerful demotivator. Along with the word try it becomes a huge excuse as to why a person has not done what he or she knows should be done. (See my video “Two Words To Eliminate From Your Vocabulary” at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=360750311975.)
The question this week to consider is “How big is your BUT?” How often do you excuse yourself with a sentence that begins with something like, “I tried…but….” Is your big BUT holding you back?
Sean Stephenson wrote a wonderful book titled Get Off Your “But”: How to End Self-sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself. He reminds his readers that there is a “BUT Triple Threat.”
- BUT fears. These are the “what ifs” in our lives. We might find ourselves constantly postponing action; living a cyclical worst case scenario. “I would like to change jobs but what if the new one does not work out.” “Yes, I want to go back to school but what if I cannot do the work?” “I want to try out for the team/band/play but what if I fail.” Stephenson believes “we are so afraid of looking bad that we forget no one’s looking at us—just like you, other people are looking at who’s looking at them.” A colleague of mine once quipped, “80% of the people don’t care that you have a problem—and the other 20% are glad you have the problem!” So why waste time in this realm?
- BUT excuses. Some people get in a loop of rationalizations. And like most loops, they end up where they began—only now they have a pile of but excuses as baggage. “I would have made that job change but the economy is too tenuous/it’s not the best time/I will do it next year/I will wait until the car is paid off.” Believe me; I understand how this cycle can constantly replay. We can always find a reason to postpone an action. Stephenson suggests to project into the future and ask yourself: “If I continue this behavior, what will happen to me? Where will I be? Do I like the result?”
- BUT insecurities. Rooted in self-esteem issues of I am not good enough, talented enough, strong enough, pretty enough, popular enough, or smart enough these can be paralyzing. There is a difference between a realistic assessment and a self-defeating pronouncement. For me, a realistic assessment is that I am not talented enough to play guitar like Eric Clapton. A self-defeating pronouncement would be that I will never be able to play guitar because I have no talent. The reality is that although I may not be very good with a guitar, I have recorded two CDs and play my guitar regularly around the nation. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you separate reality from the insecurities.
What are your dreams? What is holding you back—fact or fiction? How big is your BUT?
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.