People often use the word “but” when they give a reason or excuse for why they can’t do what they want or need to do.
- I’d love to go to the party, but I’m anxious.
- I know I need to exercise, but it’s hard.
- I’d love to ask her out on a date, but I might get rejected.
In sentences like these, the first part of the sentence (before the but) represents something that the person wants to do. It’s an action that is in line with the person’s values. In general, people are happier and more satisfied to extent they regularly engage in these types of value-consistent actions.
Reasons for Avoidance
The second part of the sentence (after the but) represents the reason the person has for NOT engaging in the value-consistent action. These reasons “make sense” to the person—they might even be based on the person’s history and past experiences.
But usually they aren’t “true” in the causal sense.
- You can feel anxiety about something and still do it. (This is the basis for most therapeutic approaches to anxiety.)
- You can do something that is challenging and difficult. (This is the definition of most big problems that we face in our world.)
- You can get rejected and survive. (Almost everyone who dates regularly has been rejected at one time or another.)
Replace “But” with “And”
If you struggle with using “but” to give yourself reasons for not doing the things you want to do, try to replace the word “but” with the word “and.”
- I’d love to go to the party, and I’m anxious.
- I know I need to exercise, and it’s hard.
- I’d love to ask her out on a date, and I might get rejected.
These sentences are more accurate in describing your overall experience. You want to go to the party and you’re anxious. You need to exercise and it’s hard. You want to ask her out on a date and you might get rejected. Both sides of the sentence are true. If you are able to hold both of these parts of yourself, you are more likely to be able to move forward toward what you want.