Rule 1: Self Limiting Perspectives are not Allowed

This is part of an ongoing series chronicling my attempts to regain a bit of my sense of self, and my sanity, by implementing Elizabeth Lyons’ 32 Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom. Subscribe to my RSS feed to get the whole series!

Don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s assignment for each rule at the end of the post!

Don’t limit yourself. The first rule I need to follow, and one that will, according to the book, “work magic on your perspective and ability to manage nearly any situation with grace, tact, and as few swear words as possible.”

Count me in! I’m sure my kids I could do with a little less swearing.

Lyons describes a self limiting perspective as telling yourself you can’t do something, when you really mean that you don’t want to. In reality, it’s all about choices. We are choosing not to do these things. But saying we can’t gives us some kind of validation. A self limiting perspective is your basic run of the mill copout.

Oh, I’m very familiar with copouts. I lived in copouts for years. Take these lovely examples that I am proud to call my own:
  • “I can’t take that [more creative and career inspiring!] job! It pays almost half of what I make at the credit union! How would we pay our mortgage?”
  • “I can’t ever work on art at home because I don’t have the space/time/right supplies.
  • “I can’t go to the gym! Modern Family is on, and it’s the ‘Fizbo’ episode, and the DVR is broken!”
Ok, so the last one isn’t true, but you get the point. Chances are, Modern Family would be showing on one of the 27 TVs at the gym anyway, so it’s safe to say that the I just don’t want to go work out after a long day of working/caring for kids/eating donuts. Happens to all of us.

And excuse #2? I have to fess up and say that although my entire life I was on the path to be a super famous artist [uh huh], I didn’t really want to do it. I lacked inspiration and motivation. Being good at something doesn’t mean that you are destined to do that forever. Or even that you have to want to do it. After having my children, I started this blog, rediscovered my love for writing, and decided to make it my main focus, much to the detriment of my laundry, dishes, and backlogged Modern Family episodes (are you sensing that I love that show?).

As for excuse #1, taking a $7,000+ paycut (something I actually considered in order to get my foot in the door with one opportunity) is huge and seems unfathomable on the surface! But let me tell you, I took a much larger paycut than that, plus incurred a large amount of baby related expenses when I quit my job to stay home with my kids. And I gained a whole lot of perspective. But guess what? We are still dutifully paying our mortgage. Maybe with a little more swearing under our breath, but paying it all the same.

Our choices are what drive us. I can choose not to do something, but saying I can’t do it makes it justifiable. And what we often don’t realize is that we are doing ourselves a disservice.

So how am I limiting myself now in my role as a wife and mother? When do I say “I can’t” when I really mean “I don’t want to?” How can I locate something I really do want, then tell myself I can’t do it?

“I can’t take all three kids to the library/playground/grocery store.” Physically? Yes, I can. Do I want to? Hhhhhhheeeeeeelllllllll no. Grocery shopping with three small kids who are not able to walk through the store (without two of them tearing in opposite directions) is a logistical nightmare and doesn’t even leave room in the cart for all the items I am bound to forget anyway since I am so distracted. I had better be desperate. Think: there are absolutely no diapers to be found, it’s only 10am, and all 3 kids are sitting in poop. The playground? Unless I am with Christian or a group of other moms, it’s just not safe. Twins tend to run in two different directions. And the library? Been there, done that, raised my tiny white flag in defeat.

Now since reading Rule 1, I did decide to jet us out of the house one day for a non-urgent trip to Target. If it didn’t work and we had to split, no biggie.

And guess what? Success. I had the mindset that we could pull it off. I prepared the big girls in the car by talking about what to expect: that since there were more of them than there were of me, we needed to ride in a cart and be patient while we got the things on our list. Then, if time permitted, which it did, we could go look at toys, and when my phone timer went off (probably the handiest parenting tool I own), we needed to get back in the cart to go home. They obliged like robots angels, with just a small meltdown at the register. And I left $78 poorer.

Important quotes from Rule 1: “Change your lingo from ‘I can’t…’ to ‘I won’t…’ or ‘I choose not to…'”

“Find something you really, truly want to do. And then try telling yourself you can’t do it.”

Elizabeth’s assignment for Rule 1: About what do you have a self limiting perspective? How can you change your internal dialogue to make your choice in that area more empowering, or to acknowledge that you indeed want to do/see/accomplish that thing enough to make it happen?

Leave me a comment and let me know if and how you can implement rule 1!

Purchase your own autographed copy of You CANNOT Be Serious! You can also follow Elizabeth Lyons on Twitter: @elizabethlyons

Join the Conversation


  1. I am living excuse #1 day in and day out. But then, I can't seem to get our credit card back to something I consider manageable either.

    Now, now, before I sound like a total jerk – pay the credit card off every month. But since buying a house there always seems to eb SOMETHING that makes that payment higher than I think it should be.

  2. Leigh Ann,
    I remember before I had kids I was really close to this gal that already had 2. She was a stay at home Mom. I remember her telling me something she would say when other Moms would say, "Oh, your a stay at home Mom, you are so lucky." She would respond, "Well, I am lucky but it was also a choice my family made". ie, probably a lot of financial sacrifices to give up that job etc. to stay home.

  3. I find Target one of the most manageable stores for taking kids – their large carts to actually strap in both kids and still have cart space are vital to survival.

    Glad you had success!

    I have found I will brave a lot to get out of hour on some days… even risk failure.

    Meanwhile, my laundry sits. Sad and lonely and wondering if I'll ever get to it.

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