Monday, October 20, 2014

Your Big But

In the 1985 movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Simone is telling Pee Wee Herman about her dreams of living in Paris. She finishes her story with, “…but, ” and then tells him that Andy, her controlling boyfriend, will never let her go. Pee Wee responds with the classic line, “Everyone I know has a big but.” Pee Wee makes a good point.

I was reminded of this recently during a coaching session. My client and I were working on aligning him towards his ideal job, and throughout the conversation he kept saying, “…but I don’t think I can do (this) or (that),” or, “...but they probably won’t hire me because…” As our session progressed, I watched his but get bigger and bigger. As his doubts increased, so did his but.

So what's up with the big but? Why the doubt? And where do our big buts come from?

First, let’s look to science. In his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Dr. Christopher Germer states, “We have evolved for survival, not happiness, and thus have a natural tendency to focus on the negative.” Considering that our brains are naturally hardwired for problem-solving, sticking our but into everything comes naturally. Just call it pragmatic contingency planning. All fine and dandy until your but gets too big—then it just slows you down. When doubt and pessimism become your default setting, you end up dragging your but wherever you go.

Why We But In:
•    Protecting a belief system (covering your but)
•    Avoiding disappointment (saving your but)
•    Fear of re-occurrence (but it happened before…)
•    Bad habits (unaware we're being a but head)

So how do you lose your but? You don’t. However, you can reduce your but size.

Tips on Butting Out:
•    Eliminate doubt by trusting the process
•    Release the need to control outcomes
•    Change your default setting to optimistic
•    Do what you can, and then it let go

Finally, pay attention to feedback from others. Try having a friend or coworker call you out on your but. And the next time you’re feeling doubt you can ask them, “Does my but look big to you? Really, you can tell me. I trust you.”

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your work, relationships, and life. 
Visit to learn more. And look for the new trilogy book, 21 Days, Steps & Keys launching November 1, 2014. Get all three books in one!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is an educator, author, and life coach, who helps people reclaim their power of choice to find better balance and happiness in their work, relationships, and life. You can reach him at

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