Are you into big buts? Let’s be honest here: most people do have one or two big buts they’re really into that they just can’t resist:
I know I shouldn’t drink so much wine BUT….
I know I should have more patience with the kids BUT…
I know I seem critical BUT….
Here’s a few of my personal favourites:
I know I should exercise more, BUT…
I know I should finish up my taxes BUT….
I know I should go to bed earlier BUT….
What do those big buts really mean? It means there’s a big, juicy excuse coming down the pipeline. Telling the truth would look more like this:
I know I shouldn’t drink so much wine BUT…. I choose to.
I know I should have more patience with the kids BUT… I choose not to.
I know I seem critical BUT…. I choose to be anyway.
I know I should exercise more, BUT… I don’t make it a priority.
I know I should finish up my taxes BUT…. I’m not in the mood so I choose not to.
I know I should go to bed earlier BUT…. I dive into good books and choose to stay up later.
The point is, when we’re being the raw, honest version of ourselves, we can recognize and acknowledge that every single thing we do or don’t do is a choice. Our choice.
This includes how we respond to people and situations. We always ALWAYS can choose how we respond to situations and how we make sense of them. Sometimes that choice means walking away and taking a time out. If I was mathematically inclined (I’m not – didn’t you see taxes are one of my ‘buts’?) I bet I could create an algorithm that correlates peoples’ “buts” and their progress in therapy. By the way, time spent in therapy has nothing to do with progress – some people are in therapy for a short period and make no changes, some make changes practically overnight. Some are in therapy for years and courageously learn to cope with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Some languish in therapy chatting away and never really making a shift (that later type of client would be sure to fire me – or I’d fire them). To take it even further, I believe that lack of progress in any endeavour depends on our love of buts. When we blame our poor behaviour on our kids, our colleagues, or our partner, we’re butting, we're making excuses for our crummy behavior.
I’m trying to be more considerate, but he….
I was in a really good mood, but she….
I don’t like to yell, but they…
Buts keep us stuck and tired. They drain our energy and our ambition. Buts make the possible implausible and turn potential into unlikely. Buts serve as wedges to connection and a way to shirk responsibility.
There’s another big but that women often use, the big but as a no wrapped up in an apology. Something like this:
I’d love to help you out with your garage sale but….
It would be great to meet you for coffee but….
Rather than a simple, “No thank you” or “I can’t make it”, we trip and fumble all over ourselves feeling badly, wondering how we’ll be judged, and fill the space around us with “I’m sorrys” and “buts”.
Here’s my challenge to you: this week notice when you but, in your head or out loud. Take stock of your excuses. If you want to hang on to them, that’s totally up to you. I’m going to try and ditch my buts this week and it will sound something more like this:
I’m going to read WAY past my bedtime and enjoy every single second of it.