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Insights: Yes You Can
May 25, 2010

Yes You Can!

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"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming,
is the only end of life."

- Baruch Spinoza

Barack Obama's three little words, "Yes, we can", used so powerfully during his 2008 election speech, served to ignite the passion and enthusiasm of the American nation after the battering it took through years of a seemingly endless and increasingly questionable Iraqi campaign and the broader 'War on Terror'.

The words were inspired by one Ann Nixon Cooper, then 106 years old.

Obama chose Nixon to illustrate the huge progress that his country had made since her early years. As he pointed out: "She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin."

Whereas Barack Obama used the phrase "Yes, we can" to rally the collective spirit of his people, I want to use his inspiration in a more individual and personal sense today.

Are you holding back?

You see, my experiences in the field of life coaching have taught me that the vast majority of people are holding back from doing what they really would love to do, achieving what they really long to achieve, going where they would dearly love to go, having what they would truly love to have.


Simply because of the mindset, "No, I can't."

Now, I'm not saying that most people wander around saying: "No I can't" to every opportunity that arises. For most, doubts about their ability or worthiness are less overt than that. They are far deeper and more insidious, if you like.

How many people do you know who 'pull back from the brink' or back out at the last moment when presented with the chance to do something different, worthwhile or challenging, finding instead a convenient excuse that will allow them to justify not having to confront and test their deeper inhibitions.

An issue of self-belief

The issue is one of self-belief. Lack of self-belief (read this carefully - NOT lack of money, education or other resources) is the biggest obstacle in the way of people living the lives they would love to live. Lack of self-belief is closely connected with the fear of change. For if the status quo (read 'comfort zone' - even if its not that comfortable) changes, how will those who doubt themselves cope?

Lack of self-belief derives from many sources like past events and outcomes, one's education, the environment you're brought up in, the stories you tell yourself and so on.

Sadly, human nature is such that we tend to apportion more weight to things that detract from our ideal sense of self than things that contribute to it.

Think about it.

People who have bad experiences in a restaurant are inclined to tell three to four times more people than they would about good experiences. People are far more inclined to seek out bad news than good news (you only have to look at the newspapers to see what sells).

Likewise people are far more likely to take 'negative' criticism or experiences to heart than the positive counterparts.

Distorted perceptions of our own abilities

Thus, it is no wonder that so many of us grow up with such distorted perceptions of our own abilities. And those who find themselves in undesirable situations will look to justify this, either by blaming 'fate' or by questioning their own worthiness to be, do and have more.

And yet, the truth of the matter is that most of us are way, way more capable than we dare to think. Worthiness, far from being some obscure measure by which faceless others pass judgement on us, is simply a measure of one's own self-belief; an internal assessment of our own ability.

So what's the secret to building self-belief?

First become aware

The first thing to do is to become fully aware of when you are 'backing off' from doing something that your inner voice is encouraging you to do. Question yourself as to why you are 'backing off'. If you have the courage to open this can of worms, it's likely you'll be surprised to find that you can trace your reluctance to some deeply ingrained (but likely preposterous) limiting belief that you have been cultivating for some time.

I say preposterous because most limiting beliefs are based on very flimsy evidence! Some less than ideal past experiences, negative criticisms or taught concepts may have conspired to undermine your belief in your ability. However, if you take the time to really think about it, you'll soon unearth many good experiences, positive criticisms and learnings that far outweigh the evidence on which your negative beliefs are founded.

Inspiration from down under

Recently you may have heard that young Australian, Jessica Watson, became the youngest person ever to sail alone, unassisted, around the world. Yes, Jessica, who completed this feat three days before her seventeenth birthday, just happens to be of the fairer sex.

Clearly the passion, determination and youthfulness of this young lass was more than a match for any doubts she may have had about her own ability. But just imagine how any lesser mortal might have rationalized their decision to back out of such a trip:

"Well, I'm only 16. I'm not experienced enough."

"I'm a girl. I'm not physically strong enough to handle what lies ahead."

"There's no way I could cope with being alone for so long."

"My parents would never allow me to do something so crazy."

"The authorities will never give me permission."

"I might get hijacked by pirates."

Do you see what I mean. These are all quite understandable self-limitations and justifications - but that's all they are.

Live the magic

My point, in closing, is that each one of us, no matter what the challenges and handicaps we may face, has the ability to live the life we love. Until we rise above our limiting beliefs and do what it is we think we can not, we will fall short of experiencing the true magic that life has to offer.

Till next week...

Warm regards


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