“I can’t manage everything by myself anymore … I’m completely stressed out! From being responsible for all the meal planning to childcare responsibilities to cleaning the house, there’s no romance, no time for friends, no time to read. Something has to give.”
These were the first words spoken when I sat down with one of my monthly coaching clients. No doubt her words echo loudly in the hearts and minds of many others.
Although we live in some pretty cushy conditions compared to generations before us, it’s arguable that we live unhappier lives than they did. We have access to more material comforts than one could ever fully utilize. We’re surrounded by abundance – from clean drinking water to food to entertainment. We have distractions and stimulants to the point that we shouldn’t even have to leave the comfort of our memory foam beds.
But is it enough?
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No. Addictive behaviours are on the rise, violence is showing up more in schools and even on our highways, our workspaces seem filled with concerns of harassment. And even though there are plenty of books on the subject of living life fully, we generally seem unable to sustain a feeling of peace and bliss.
How did this happen? Are our expectations too high?
Rather than agreeing with my client, I put her “can’t” into perspective.
There is no such thing as can’t. Either you won’t do something, or you haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Which one of those is driving your current state is something we should all strive to sort out.
When we start to feel overwhelmed or trapped, we feel incapable of resolving any conflict. Our imagination transforms our reality. We avoid having a difficult conversation or doing something that could positively affect our circumstances because we subscribe to the belief that we can’t.
This is all completely avoidable.
Whether the conflict you face is internal or external, you can problem solve it.
Philosopher Marcus Aurelius once wrote that everyone should begin their day by telling themselves: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will and selfishness.
Why would you want to start the day with that thought in your head?
Because Aurelius didn’t want to be surprised; he wanted to be prepared.
We know people can be difficult. We also know you can’t control what they do. If I just said that and nothing else, you’d roll your eyes at me. Yet when people or situations are difficult, you often respond like it was a random event, and then you get angry or anxious. Does that make any sense?
Aurelius reminded himself every morning that people were going to be difficult. That way, it wouldn’t surprise him, and he wouldn’t get frustrated and tell them all to go to hell. When it occurred, he was primed to respond.
When our imaginations get involved, we can feel frustrated and give up before we ever start. But by thinking about what could go wrong in any situation, we mentally prepare ourselves for a challenge that could pop up.
From there, we can focus on our sphere of influence. For my client, bringing in a cleaning service so she can focus on her relationships and growing her business might just provide the relief she needs to re-invest in her important relationships. Arguing with her spouse about the division of chores will likely further reduce the romance she craves. Hiring someone to help is within her sphere of influence.
So when you hear yourself muttering “can’t,” pause and ask yourself: Is it that I don’t want to or I haven’t figured out how yet?
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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