The Little Engine That Couldn't
"You can do anything you set your mind to."
Really??? That hasn't been my experience. You only need to watch a few episodes of American Idol or Dancing With The Stars to realize that setting your mind to something is not always enough. Sometimes you just can't do what you want to do.
Many of us grew up with The Little Engine That Could and I don't know about you but "I think I can, I think I can" is burned into my brain like a mantra. Frequently it works. If I tell myself I can do something, I usually can. But indiscriminately using that mantra can actually be harmful.
The other day I thought I could carry my 47 lb. dog upstairs without hurting myself. I was wrong. I'm sure you can think of lots of examples of when you thought you could do something only to find out you could not.
So how do you tell the difference between positive thinking, sheer determination, and bullheaded stupidity? How do you discern what is yours to do and what is not?
To answer that fully here would be more than I could write. Many great books have been written on the subject of discernment. But I think it might be useful to take a moment to STOP before acting and ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Is what you want to do in the highest and best interest of all concerned? Although it was good for my hurting dog not to climb the stairs, it was not good for me to carry her. I really hurt my back and what if I had dropped her? Now I am not able to do everything I need to do around the house and my husband has to do double duty to take care of me, at least temporarily.
- Where is the desire to do this thing coming from? Is it coming from your ego? Is it your need for status, fame, or approval? Are you trying to avoid conflict? Is it coming from impatience or impulsiveness? My ego said, "I know I shouldn't try to lift this much weight, but I'm gonna do it anyway. Nobody's gonna tell me what to do -- even me!"
- If you don't do it, what will happen? If I had simply kept the dog downstairs, I wouldn't have suffered the injury. We're keeping her downstairs now anyway so nothing good was accomplished by my "think I can" attitude.
Don't get me wrong. I still love the attitude espoused by The Little Engine That Could and will probably continue to use it as a mantra, especially over "I don't think I can," but not until clearly discerning what is mine to do.