One of the keys to a consistently happy life is choosing its best approach.
This awareness — that choice exists — is an acquired intuitive deduction because of our upbringing. During our formative years our parents and guardians make our decisions for us, usually by mandate. They tell us what we can and cannot do, options are rare, and decisions are never up for negotiation.
Attitude is everything, and everything changed for me in my early-30s. To that point I’d lived my life an angry young man. Nothing was ever good enough, everyone else was stupid, it was “my way or the highway,” and nothing was ever my fault. Every failure had an excuse and smiling was something I did only when faking for photographs. I was the hotheaded poster child for a “Can’t because” lifestyle.
The root of that discontent was my jaw-set approach to daily living. Once I got coached out of this, I traded the relentless negativity of “Can’t because” for the empowering enlightenment of “How can we?” and a burden was instantly lifted. The yoke was off my shoulders; and at the risk of mixing too many metaphors, the light came on. This, I realized, is a far better way to attack life!
Making the smart choice is important because “Can’t because” surrounds us. Negativity and criticism litter Twitter, while judging and bashing others is the lifeblood of the Internet. Look and you shall see. See the negativity and realize that how those people are navigating life is not the chosen road to follow.
“How can we?” is not just talk — it is a conscious decision that determines how we approach life. For example, opportunities abound at work to improve something or problem-solve an issue by challenging the status quo that heretofore has been considered unchangeable. Change, after all, is good — because outmoded or stale mandates are recipes for mediocrity.
A “How can we?” approach can also be the life altering key to positive change in our real lives. The word ‘we’ denotes teamwork and collaboration. Together we can achieve more than any one person who restricts his or her vision to a perspective that sees only the reasons he or she cannot do something.
When working with clients I often hear, “We’ve always done it this way.”
My challenge to that is, “Why?” Unless it is due to a legal mandate, their answer is the current way of doing things is a habit or custom. Precedent and ritual do not mean that way is always be the best way.
But just as someone invented that way, someone else — us, for example — can reinvent it this way. The whole Six Sigma process improvement industry, for example, is built around blowing up the “Can’t because” and detailing a better way.
While I find few things in life more boring or unfulfilling than living in a “Can’t because” world, flipping the conversion switch to become a “How can we?” person also requires knowing how to parlay that approach into a process that drives positive change.
Here is that process:
- First, fill in this blank: How can we (what)? See what you want to achieve. Once you see it, define it.
- Once that end goal is defined ask, “What two things must occur in order to produce that desired result?” If I accomplish A and then accomplish B, will A+B deliver the desired result? They should. If they don’t, keep thinking until you figure it out.
Every challenge can be distilled into two success triggers. This process is the method “How can we?” people attack life — they figure out the steps for an orchestrated pursuit toward specific achievement.
- Once those two key enablers are identified, solve for the smartest way to achieve each. Ask, “What must I do first in order to position myself to succeed?” It is here, these first steps, where you will begin executing the plan that leads to your clearly envisioned “How can we?” solution.
Trust me on this: Life gets easier when you embrace a “How can we?” approach as part of your personal brand and surround yourself with like-minded people.
While I have long felt the term “Debbie Downer” was disingenuous to positive women named Debbie, suffice it to say that it is harder to stay upbeat and positive when surrounded by people who dwell on caustic or defeatist negativity. If you have downer people near the core of your connection circle, stiff-arm them further away. Distance yourselves from negativity. Pull “How can we?” people closer. Those are they types to surround yourself with.
I have lived with those choices and have longtime friends I used to be close with but, by choice, are no longer. Confidants need to climb aboard the “How can we?” bus or they can find their own transportation — I shall not travel with them. I do not tolerate “stinkin’ thinkin’.”
The “How can we?” approach to life provides many coachable moments to those you meet along the way. People are impressionable — they can backslide to a negative place or climb toward a positive one.
Because of that, “How can we?” is a very valuable “pay it forward” technique. Try it and see.
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