I Can’t Until…

Recently, I’ve been paying more attention to one of my many thought-loops (you know, the unhelpful brain chatter that plays non-stop in the back of your mind). This one says, “I can’t _____, until I _____.” Typically, it’s, “”I can’t _____, until I have more money.” Doesn’t much matter what I want to do or have, I’ve developed a habitual mindset of financial self-denial to it all.

Don’t get me wrong – delay of gratification can be a useful skill, and living within one’s means an even more useful one. But that’s not what’s going on here. It’s just, “I can’t,” without question, without putting any creative thinking into achieving the desired outcome.

Considering the many inherent challenges of meeting my goals, it really doesn’t help to have “I can’t” playing in the background like a broken record. So, I am attempting to change the record to one that plays, “I will _____ when I _____.”

By shifting my thoughts from “I can’t until” to “I will when,” I am almost automatically forced to fill in the last blank with something concrete and measurable. Instead of passively pining for a tropical vacation, I learn how much one costs and put a savings plan in my budget. Voila – now I know when. It might not be as soon as I’d prefer, but at least I’m not whining about it anymore and have something to look forward to.

While this seems to be primarily a money issue for me, “I can’t” is a pernicious thought that has seeped into other areas of my life. Professionally, for instance, it gets tangled up in credentials: I can’t teach a workshop or raise my rates until I get another certificate or read a big stack of books or… whatever. Again, by shifting that inner conversation, I am compelled to come up with a specific answer to “when.”

And the best thing I’ve discovered is sometimes the answer to “when” is NOW. By taking a closer and calmer look without all that mental junk in the way, I’ve found there often isn’t a good reason to delay.

What assumptions or habitual thoughts are holding you back? How do you shift your mind chatter?

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