Life holds limitless possibilities – often influenced by the choices we make (or avoid making) every day. We have many opportunities to make a difference – most influenced by the way we perceive an issue, problem or situation – yet often choose to obfuscate our influence by neglectfully doing nothing rather than intentionally doing something. Successful people decide to act when action is necessary (and INTENTIONALLY choose NOT to act when allowing a situation to run its course). What many of us do not recognize is that taking no action can often create as much significant and meaningful change as planning and implementing for change as long as we are willing to accept the results of our inaction. When we preface failure with validators such as “but,” “if only” or “it wasn’t my fault,” we discount any learning that our efforts may have produced by excusing our shortcomings and minimizing the need to succeed by accepting less than our best.
Complacency is the strongest of emotions – possibly more powerful than love or hate because it represents an acceptance of everything and a lack of conviction for anything. Complacency cannot be argued or discussed – it is simply “existing” without living. Complacency obscures any thoughts of change behind the mask of “But,” then buries it forever beneath the surface of “If only”. People often justify their inaction by using these deferral words only to find that avoidance not only fosters failure, it encourages unsuccessful endeavors by presenting a plausible alternative. When we impose the “I would have accomplished something if not for…” or “We would have succeeded but…” excuses, we are accepting failure as a reasonable expectation and removing any need to achieve.
Awareness – and the taking of action based on that awareness – is the key to eliminating complacency as you chart the path upon which you choose to travel. Some examples would include:
- “I could have made a difference in that organization (or in life) but I was fired (or dumped) for no reason!” While some people lose their job for “no apparent reason,” and others end relationships “through no fault of their own,” more often people DO (or do not do) the things that create (or lead to) their own situation. If an individual COULD HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE, why was “the difference” not made when the opportunity was presented? If a relationship “went bad,” what were you doing to nourish and maintain it when it was “good?” In order to avoid blaming others for “things gone wrong” we must often take intentional action aimed at preventing things from going bad rather than waiting for the book to be written (and published) before wanting to rewrite the final chapter.
- “I should have done things differently but I knew nobody would have listened anyway.” How could
Nearly as frustrating (and equally as hopeless) is the individual who hides behind “If only…”
- “I’d be living on easy street if only I’d been recognized for the contribution I personally made to my job (or my relationship).” Far too often people expect an immediate “return” for their efforts and are disappointed if they are not given one. Few people can find reward (or satisfaction) in their individual accomplishments or progress made towards the completion of a goal (rather than the completion itself). Most, it would seem, require verbal recognition or visible rewards to come from “outside” rather than “inside” to be meaningful. If every situation (or relationship) were blanketed by an attitude of “how much can I give” rather than “how much will I receive,” we might find ourselves too engaged in basking within our accomplishments to seek excuses for our failures.
- “I’d be happy if only someone cared about me as much as I care about them.” It is not possible for a person to make another feel good about him or herself. Caring about others is an admirable quality. Doing it with the expectation that another will return the feeling is folly. I have never seen a “conditionally caring” person happy – nor have I often seen the recipients of conditional caring return nearly as much as they receive. Giving freely – with no expectation of anything being given back – often produces an exceptional return on your investment.
Self-defeating (and action deferring) statements might make sense to someone looking to take the easy way in life, but not for someone passionately believing in maximizing the human potential. Success will come ONLY when we replace “if only…” with “what if?” It will touch our lives ONLY when we eliminate the concept that “I would have done this but for…” and replace it with “I’m glad I did this because…”