Too often, we put ourselves into a box of limitations.  When we look for solutions to problems, we immediately start up with the “I can’t do that” list, rather than the list of things we can do, or should consider.  Whenever I hear “I can’t do that”, I try to ask- “Why not?” Surprisingly frequently, the Why’s are not compelling excuses for not acting, but merely expressions of our fear, or self-imposed limitations.

For example, let’s say your child is having problems at school.  You could look for another school for next year, you could look for another school and move them as soon as possible, you could approach the administration and talk to them about your child’s difficulty, you could talk to the teachers involved, you could have your child tested to see if they have any learning disabilities, or any combination of the above.  Or you could do nothing.   What’s the right choice?

Well, the “right choice” is going to be highly fact-dependent.  If your child is getting picked on by a classmate, most of the above solutions are overkill, and talking to the teacher or other parent will probably solve the problem.  However, if your child is really struggling academically, getting to the bottom of that problem may involve many of the suggestions, including testing, looking at other schools that might be a better fit (if your child is currently in private school, for example),  getting help, tutoring, services- whatever your child needs.  Simply hopping from school to school won’t solve the underlying problem, in and of itself.  You need to get at the root of the problem in order to solve it, and that may not be one easy solutin, but a series of things you need to do.

The point here is this: too many times we form our own cages, we trap ourselves mentally by saying “I can’t”.  I think we’re all obligated to try to change things in our lives that we’re unhappy with- you can always change the status quo.

Say you are in a job you hate.  There is nothing that binds you into indentured servitude in that position for life.  You CAN look for another job.  You CAN quit.  Each of these choices may make other things, like paying the rent, more difficult, but if you truly hate your job, rather than staying in it, hoping it will somehow get better, why not look for something else that will make you happier?  Why not try to change things at work so you’ll be a bit more engaged, or focus on something you want to accomplish rather on what you cannot?  Just saying “I can’t” and giving up isn’t a solution- that’s just deciding to accept a bad situation and being too lazy to make it different.

The hardest part about growing up is realizing that you are empowered to take charge of your life.  You are not a victim of your circumstances.  Sure, you may have a lousy hand this round, and not be born with every advantage, but why accept this as your lot in life?  Why not plot a path to a better future? Seeing yourself as a powerless person makes you powerless.  Looking for ways to change things for your advantage, seeing what you can do rather than focusing on what you can’t-that’s what will move you forward.

Otherwise, all you are doing is treading water in your lif- keeping yourself from drowning, but never making any real progress forward.