There is a rich tradition in my family of making excuses.
Excuses for not helping each other; excuses for not going places; excuses for not doing things; excuses for not working.
Our favourite thing to say is I can’t because… when what we usually really mean is I don’t want to.
If I suggest anything out of the ordinary to my mother (even something as simple as a new style of hand bag), her response will always, without fail, be I can’t because… and then some random and not-entirely-valid excuse is wheeled out. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, I can’t lift that, I can’t reverse into that space, I can’t walk over there, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. It’s infuriating. My mother is registered as disabled; she has one of those badges for her car, and there are lots of things she can’t do; but there are loads of things she probably can do if she tries. In contrast, I’ve a friend whose father is mostly confined to a wheelchair and is probably in a great deal of pain, but loses out on benefits because when the question of “can you walk the length of a football pitch” (or whatever that ridiculous question is) came up, his response was “yes!” – because he can… it’ll just take him over an hour, and end in a lot of pain and probably collapse. But he can do it, and he doesn’t want to lie and say he can’t. When I heard this story, it made me stop and think about my own attitude.
I have a pretty terrible case of the can’ts myself. Not because I don’t want to see people or do things, but because it’s an automatic response; a learned behaviour to always reply in the negative. Especially if what I’m being offered involves leaving the comfort of my sofa. This week I was asked to go to London (travel expenses paid) to have my photo taken, on a day I would normally work in the back office of a shop. I very nearly turned it down because I didn’t want to have to arrange to change my day. Who does that? The photo in this post is from a shoot we had with friends last week. They take our photos for free because they are lovely. Still, it’s been nearly a year since our last shoot because their studio is on the other side of town; a 10 minute bus journey costing around £2. Ridiculous, don’t you think?
Often if I stop and think about whether I can (or want to) do something, I find the answer is yes. I listened to a speech by Loral Langemeier the other day; she’s… well, she’s a lot of things. She owns businesses in every sector you can imagine. She says that in business you should say YES and worry about the how afterwards. The important thing is to say yes.
I think that’s probably a philosophy that translates to lots of other things too. And when you say yes to something you might have said no to, things happen that might not otherwise have happened!
So my plan is to start saying YES. To jobs, to people, to days out, to nights out, to dates. Let’s see what happens…