Lisa Manterfield

The Plan B Life

Changing "I Can't" to "I Can"

A simple change in attitude could keep you moving forward.

Posted Aug 26, 2011

On my first morning working from my laptop, I discovered I'd left my memory stick and all my files at home. No problem, being a Plan B kind of girl, I knew I had my files backed up. Unfortunately, because I'd turned off my office computer before leaving, none of the work I'd done in the previous 24 hours had been backed up. Short of calling my neighbor to ask her to go into my house, fire up my computer and email the files to me (not an option for a number of reasons) I was stuck.

I'll cut a long story short here, because the weekend became one disaster after another, culminating in my laptop blowing up (with an actually, pop, fizz, and sizzle.) Subsequently, I was unable make progress any of the four projects that were due within days of me getting home, and suddenly my deadlines were impossible to meet.

There were expletives involved, as I'm sure you can imagine, and, my already high stress levels soared. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and went to sit in the sun, head on my knees, bemoaning the injustice of life and contemplating repacking my bag, blowing off the weekend, and heading home.

But finally, I took a deep breath, grabbed my to-do list and a fresh piece of paper and made a list of all the things I could accomplish on a borrowed laptop or in a notebook, and without any of my files.

It turned out that I could do part of three of the projects. I could also take care of some other things that were due later in the week and not as critical, but doing them now would free up extra time later in the week as deadlines loomed. I also had the option of recreating the work I'd lost, even though that wasn't appealing.

After just five or ten calm minutes, I had a new to-do list for my days away, and had rearranged my schedule for my return home when I could access the rest of my files. Instead of beating myself up and bemoaning all the things that had gone wrong, I was able to skew my point-of-view and focus on the things I could accomplish. I even got to enjoy my weekend without stressing about the deadlines that would get missed.

So, what can't you do? Do you have a health issue that prevents you from doing some of the things you once loved? Do you have obligations that prevent you from starting a new career? What's stopping you from getting what you want right now?

I can't encourage grabbing a beer from the fridge, but maybe get out of the house, go whack a tennis ball around, or do whatever you usually do to blow off steam. Then take a few minutes. Take a deep breath and adjust your thinking. OK, so things are a mess and you're surrounded by obstacles, but what can you do right now? What do you have control over?

Could you devote 10 minutes a day to that thing you love, or could do just one thing to move toward your goal? If you rearranged your plan and focused on the things you can do now, would some of those obstacles go away, or at least lessen, over time?

While it's not helpful to be Pollyanna about life's problems, trying a little attitude adjustment can go a long way and maybe turn some of your "I can'ts" into "I cans."