“Because of” or “In spite of”?

Traffic light Traffic lightThis month I want you to consider why you are doing things or why you are not doing things and discover how through some simple rethinking and reframing of the circumstances around us you can make breakthroughs and headway into your goals, ambitions, plans and as always, your life!

You see, it’s often just too easy to take the option of doing nothing instead of what we really want to be doing simply because we allow the circumstances facing us to tell us that we might look silly or daft by doing this, or that we’re just not qualified to do that and so on.

Some you already know that there is sometimes a “running” theme through my blogs and this one was born not through my thinking time whilst I run, rather it was born from the very reality of there being 5 inches of snow and ice on the ground in January. And for the first few days that it was here yes I was out there playing in the white stuff with my kids and yet there were times when I longed for the snow to be gone so that I could get out there and run again. This went on for 9 whole days until I finally put my running shoes back on and realised exactly the trap that I had fallen into!

What I discovered was just how easy it was to allow the weather to affect my thinking and to persuade me to stay indoors rather than to go out for a run. Why?

  • Because there was snow on the ground and I might slip over;
  • Because it was cold and the warmth inside was far more inviting;
  • Because people will think me mad running in this weather;
  • Because no one will think me daft for staying indoors will they?

And it’s the same trap that so many of us fall into without realising it in many situations that surround us. For example, you may say to yourself:

  • I’m not going to say yes to giving that presentation because I might embarrass myself in front of my boss and colleagues;
  • I’m not going to call that potential client because they might say no;
  • If I tell them that their data analysis is wrong I’ll get put down because I have so much less experience than them;
  • I’m not going to the gym because it will be so obvious that I’m not used to exercising;
  • I won’t get down on the floor to play games with my children because I’ll look silly.

“Because” has the potential to hold us back from so many things that we might otherwise excel at, get noticed for or even just enjoy. So let me introduce you to a flip side, another way of framing what’s in front of you that will enable you and allow you to grow forwards. It’s the term “in spite of” and this is how it turned my own thinking around:

So I finally got to run. I ran down the long hill outside of my home on the pavement (sidewalk to my American friends) and it was clear and dry. The roads had been well gritted, the weather had warmed up and most of the snow in the streets and town had disappeared. I ran round the corner at the bottom and took the short path down to the canal only to discover that virtually the whole tow path was still covered in compressed snow and ice with just a small band of visible mud and grass alongside it. At that moment I had two choices:

  1. Do I stop and walk home because of the ice and its impact on the route I had planned?
  2. Or do I carry on in spite of the ice and find another way around if I have to?

Situations like this often cause us to not do something because we immediately close down our options and opportunities. The easiest option at that moment is to do nothing, to maintain the status quo, to go back to what you feel most comfortable with, to pack up and go home to stay safe and warm. And even now, I’m sure you can recall some personal examples (perhaps too many) of when you’ve done that.

And how do you think, how do you feel, what do you say to yourself when you’ve done it like that? What would you rather be thinking, feeling, saying and doing? What if you re-frame the situation into an “in spite of”? What does that allow you to do? Does it:

  • Increase my resolve to do that presentation and to make it the best yet in spite of what others may think?
  • Make me pick up the phone and call that client in spite of the fact that they may say no. And they may well say yes!
  • Encourage me to point out the error in their data analysis in spite of what they think of my limited experience. It could change the whole direction of this project for the better!
  • Send me to the gym anyway, in spite of how I may look. Isn’t that where people who want to get fit go? And we all have to start somewhere!
  • Throw me down on my hands and knees to fool around with my children in spite of how ridiculous I think I may look. Isn’t that what playing is all about and it’s so much fun when you actually do it!

So what did I do that morning when I rounded the corner and saw all the snow and ice? Well, in spite of it I carried on. And more than that, I ran alongside or over the snow and ice further than I expected that I would. Yes, I changed course and ran the second half of my run on the streets and when I got home I realised that in spite of the ice I even ran to my normal pace over the whole 10k!

Your call to action:

What are you NOT doing BECAUSE OF something?

Write a list of your personal examples in sentences along the lines of: “I’m not doing x because of y”

What would you rather be doing in those situations?

Write down what will you do next IN SPITE OF those things. Frame your sentences along the lines of “I will x in spite of y”

And if it helps your route to action, then you can share your “in spite of” commitments with me at james@futurestate.co.uk


As always, until next time Live and Love Your Life!