The other day, a friend told a story of a mentor who once said to her “Why not?” when she doubted she could do something. Two simple words, and yet where do we go from there? Well, typically we launch into a laundry list of excuses. All the reasons why not. And sometimes we can hear as we are saying them how lame they really are. And sometimes they feel very real and very big and we can’t imagine (yet) how we’d ever get past them.
And sometimes the words “Why not?” are so annoying. “Oh, don’t make it sound so easy,” we want to say. And sometimes, at the best of times, our minds turn that question over and over, and the more they turn it, the more everything starts to seem possible, as it did for my friend. And we say, “Yeah, why not?!”
I’d like to tell you that I respond most often with the latter reaction. I wish that were true. There have been plenty of times in my career when I’ve happily declared “Why not?” and thrown myself into something new. But probably more times when I’ve clung to my excuses.
Change is hard. Risk is hard. New steps in new directions are hard. And sometimes we just don’t have the energy to say “Why not?” even when we want to. And, oh, how we want to.
So what then? Do we make ourselves do it, energy or not? Passion or not? Do we trust that people see something in us we don’t see in ourselves? Do we trust that a mentor, especially, knows something we don’t know? Do we leap, when we really just want to sit at the edge a little longer?
I used to think the answer to those questions was always yes. Buck up. Do the work. Take the risk. Find the energy. That’s right, find it. It’s your job. Besides this person believes in you. You can do it.
I’m not feeling that way now. I’m feeling more generous to myself. Maybe the reasons why not are not always excuses. Maybe they are not always laziness or fear. Maybe sometimes it’s just not the right time. It doesn’t mean you’ll never do it. But if the energy isn’t true, if it isn’t authentic, if you are manufacturing it to prove something to someone else or to live up to their expectations, you’re probably not going to put your all into it anyway.
So trust your gut. When someone says, “Why not?” don’t answer immediately. Think about it for a minute, feel into it. Ask yourself honestly if you are holding back out of fear or laziness, and if the answer is no, then tell them your reasons. Not your excuses, your reasons. It’s okay to say no sometimes. It’s okay to not take every path in the road. If we are to preserve the energy we have for the things that matter most, we can’t go down every sideroad someone shows us, now matter how tempting it looks.
When it feels right, though. When that person’s confidence seems well placed, then let those words be your battle cry as you run forward. Know that person has got your back. Know that he/she believes in you. Don’t hold back. Give it your all.
Will you succeed? Sure. Why not?
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