Focus on the Reasons You Can

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Almost everything worth accomplishing in life is difficult.

Think about it: a successful marriage, intentional parenting, a growing career… they all require effort and discipline to overcome obstacles.

Even smaller goals: staying physically healthy, living on a budget, or crafting a focused life are not easy in the world we live in. These lifestyle goals, which are certainly worth accomplishing, can be difficult and require purposeful living.

Most of the things worth accomplishing in life are difficult—at least, to some extent.

Because of this fact, it seems to me, there will always be stumbling blocks that stand in the way of us accomplishing meaningful pursuits.

A number of years ago I attended a conference that featured the world-renowned, critically-acclaimed, and prolific writer, Anne Lamott. During one particular Q&A session, Anne was bombarded with questions from aspiring writers struggling to overcome obstacles.

One such attendee (I remember vividly to this day) asked the accomplished writer this question, “How do I find time to become the writer I want to be? I am a new mother, tired and ragged, and I just can’t find the energy to write during this phase of my life. Should I wait until it passes?”

Anne’s response was swift, pointed, and memorable.

She replied, “Listen, there is always going to be an available excuse as to why you can’t do your writing. You are newly-married, or you have a young child. Next, you will have more than one child, or you will be parenting teenagers, or beginning a new career, or traveling too often, or involved in this or that. There will always be a reason why you think you can’t do what you need to do. The pursuit is to overcome these obstacles in order to realize what you are called to accomplish.”

I’ve never forgotten Anne’s words of wisdom that day. Anything worth accomplishing in life is going to be difficult. And there are always going to be reasons why you can’t accomplish it.

That’s why, it is vitally important to discipline ourselves to focus our thoughts on the reasons we can, rather than the reasons we can’t.

There’s not a doubt in my mind there are countless reasons you can’t accomplish what you most want to do:

You can’t get into physical shape because you don’t have the time, your body hurts too much, or it will take too long.

You can’t live within your means because you don’t make enough money, you’re supporting too many, or life has not been fair to you.

You can’t be a faithful, loving spouse because your partner has made it too difficult, you never had a proper model growing up, or you’re just too tired at the end of the day.

You can’t accomplish your greatest career goals because you’re not smart enough, you started too late, or other people are conspiring against you.

You can’t declutter your home and get your physical possessions in order because of this spouse, or those kids, or that family you grew up in, or your love for figurines means you can never overcome consumerism in your life.

As I said before, there’s not a doubt in my mind there are reasons why you can’t do any of the difficult things you want to do. And if you continue to focus on those obstacles, you never will.

However, I also know there are countless reasons why you can do exactly what you want to do.

And those who focus on the reasons they can are the ones who reach the mountaintop.

Yes, you can get in better physical shape. If you can still move your body, you can begin making strides in that direction. Sure, it may hurt at first. But others have turned their life around, and so can you.

Yes, you can live within your financial means. It’s going to take sacrifice and effort and discipline. But others have done it, so can you.

Yes, you can be a loving and faithful spouse. It’s going to require humility, a decision to love someone despite their flaws and imperfections, and maybe some outside advice and help. But others have done it, so can you.

You can accomplish your career goals. It’s going to require initiative, hard work, perseverance, and pushing through your personal boundaries every single day. But others have done it, so can you.

And yes, you can declutter your home and minimize your possessions. It’s going to require finding time to get started, internal reflection, and finding the ability to make hard decisions. But others have done it, and so can you.

Your most important work is rarely the easiest work. In fact, just the opposite is more true. Your most meaningful and significant work will be the hardest for you to accomplish.

Those who focus on the reasons they can’t will forever remain paralyzed by their pessimism.

But those who focus on the reasons they can, find hope and energy and perseverance. And in the end, they are most satisfied with the life they have chosen to live.

What significant goal are you pursuing in your life? Write it down somewhere. Now, just below that pursuit, write down all the reasons you know it’s possible to achieve. Think of the factors within you and the factors outside of you.

And then, for your sake and ours, focus on all the reasons you can achieve your most meaningful goals.

Because we all desperately need you to live your best life.