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The Trouble with “Yes We Can”

The trouble with “yes we can” is that if you truly believe it, the logical conclusion for the next step has to be “yes we will”.

This point really hit home with me as my team at Tiny Prints and I struggled to figure out where to take the Gratitude Challenge next.  Despite our audacious dream of turning our little social experiment into a widespread grassroots movement, and despite the overwhelmingly positive outpouring of support we’ve gotten from people who have participated or followed our journeys (including you, dear readers of my blog), the task of taking this challenge to the next level still seemed too daunting.

Our list of reasons for hedging our bets and taking the easy route grew with every minute we spent thinking about how to make our dream happen.  All we kept coming up with were reasons why we shouldn’t do it.  Too expensive.  Not enough time.  Not enough resources.  We might fall on our face.  Not enough people care.  No one cares…  And so on…

Just as we were ready to give up  instead taking the easier route, something synchronicitous happened.    As if he had been reading my mind, Seth Godin, the bestselling marketing guru whose blog I read religiously, wrote a post about the problem with positive thinking. This thought-provoking entry posits that “negative thinking feels realistic, or soothes our pain, or eases our embarrassment. Negative thinking protects us and lowers expectations.”

This last sentence struck me like lightening.  In a moment of insight ignited by Seth Godin’s post, I realized that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  Hiding behind reasons of why not to do something, because it’s scary and unpleasant to contemplate failure.  The easier thing to do is soothe that fear and go for a safer option.

This is also the same reason why the Gratitude Challenge has been, well, challenging.  It’s easier to keep your feelings to yourself.  Avoids the discomfort of having to confront your and other people’s emotions.  For me, it takes a lot of guts to disclose how I actually  feel about other people.  The same recurring recording plays in my mind with each blog entry I write.  What if my feelings of gratitude are not reciprocated…?  What if others develop an unflattering opinion that I’m just “soft” and “touchy feely” (attributes somehow seemingly unfitting of effective leaders)…?  Or worst yet, what if people just plain don’t care…?

Mr. Godin doesn’t offer any remedy in his  post about how to overcome negative thinking, other than to suggest that while positive thinking is harder, it’s worth it.  So I was left on my own to solve my dilemma:  How do we silence our inner (or sometimes not so inner) critic?

The answer for me was to drown out the voice of the critic.  I began listing all the reasons why we dreamed our audacious dream in the first place.  We wanted to honor our belief that we ought to “be the change you want to see in the world”.  We believed that the world was full of like-minded people who shared this belief.  We thought “the gratitude way” would be something easy to start adopting immediately yet profound enough to sustain a lifelong practice.  We believed gratitude to be the foundation of love.  And most importantly, we believed that we could be effective messengers of this important message, with our marketing know-how and all…

Focusing harder on “why yes” vs “why not” gave us the strength to take the more difficult route.  Now we are concentrating on how to make it happen vs. whether to make it happen.  Can’t say I’ve completely stopped losing sleep over it yet, but I am more energized than ever to go after the BHAG.

So tonight I am grateful for Seth Godin, whose timely wisdom provided the bridge I needed to go from thinking “yes we can” to actually commiting to “yes we will”.

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