PEOPLE AT WORK: Give yourself a whack

DO you know what is the foulest four-letter word in my book? It’s not your usual cuss word but it is something that is sure to make you fail if you heed it. It is the word “can’t.” When we were kids, our parents used this word to make sure we were safe. “Hija, you can’t climb that tree, you might fall.” “Hija, you can’t run, you have to walk.” When we became teenagers, the admonition was, “Anak, you can’t go out of the house when it is dark.” Or “You can’t drink or they’ll think you’re a loose girl.”

Now that we are adults, we still hear these incantations of “can’ts” which we intone to ourselves. Some of these “can’ts” are:

“I can’t be a good mother because I don’t give enough time for my children.”

“I can’t keep fit because I have no time to exercise.”

“I can’t finish my work because it is so difficult.”

“I can’t be promoted because I don’t have the proper connections.”

“I can’t be an executive because all my bosses are men.”

“I can’t get out of this crazy life rushing to the office in the morning and rushing back home in the evening because I need the money.”

Ironically, the word that used to keep us safe has become a mental lock that bolts the door of opportunities and growth in all of our human dimensions—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By merely thinking “can’t,” we ensure that we really cannot be all the things we want and can be in life.

How then can we unlock this door? For some of us, we simply use a key (our will) to throw open the door. However, for many of us, we have thrown away the key to this lock—our will to succeed—along with our dreams. For those with no key, what can be done? My advice is (in the words of creativity guru Roger Van Oech), get “a whack on the side of the head.” Who or what can give us that “whack?”

Sometimes, we get “whacked” when we face the prospect of losing one’s job, the departure of a spouse, or the estrangement of a child. Sometimes, we get “whacked” by what we read in a book, words of wisdom from a wise mentor, or hurting words of a caring friend. The “whack” forces us to see that we have locked ourselves in a dimension where the only way out is to shrink, be “minimized,” or fade into the oblivion of uselessness.

We don’t have to wait for a tragedy or a loss to “whack” us to our senses. If you have a feeling of frustration, a sense of being stifled, or a hint of something undone, then, you might just be living in a “locked” world. Feel free to give yourself a “whack.” Do something you have never done before. Say what you have always wanted to say. Listen to sounds that you have longed to hear. Feel emotions that you have long kept in check. Dare to dream. Be more daring and act on your dreams.

Give yourself “whacks” again and again. Sometimes, one “whack” is not enough–we can be so hard-headed or dense at times! It is time for another “whack” when we think we have learned enough, when we feel we have done enough, when we believe that there is nothing more to happiness than what we have at the moment. You see, if we are really learning, if we are really doing what must be done and if we are really happy, then we will know that there are a lot more things we don’t know, a lot more things that we haven’t done and a lot more ways we can bring happiness not only to ourselves but to others.

Get “whacky” and see beyond your self-imposed boundaries.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom October 2003.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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