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  • Lisa Popcak

“I can’t do it,” “I’m not where I want to be,” “I don’t see any progress.” These are phrases that I’m sure many of us say to ourselves—a lot. Maybe others fill our heads with these messages. But these are phrases that make us feel stuck, feel like giving up, feel like whatever we’re trying to achieve is not possible—or sometimes, not even worth it. But where does this kind of thinking get us? The short answer (and the honest one) is nowhere. 


Recently my daughter Rachael and I were discussing this way of thinking. I have been noticing this way of thinking becoming even more of an issue during the pandemic as we are being told all the things we can’t do by our local governments. Our feelings of powerlessness through this are washing over many personal areas of our lives for so many of us. 


Rachael is a pastoral counseling associate with Catholiccounselors.com. Her specialty is in success and performance psychology, so she spends a great deal of her time helping people overcome the mindsets that weigh them down or hinder them in meeting their goals. As we talked about my observations, I felt her insights may be helpful to many moms who are struggling with these thoughts, or who are trying to help their children overcome these kinds of limiting thoughts. 


Lisa: So how do we overcome this habit of hurtful thinking? 


Rachael: It starts with adding one, small word. Yet. “I can’t do it, yet.” “I’m not where I want to be, yet.” “I don’t see progress, yet.” Do you see the difference? Adding “yet” to the end of these sentences automatically indicates hope, possibility, capability, and opportunity. By finishing these sentences with the word “yet,” our following thoughts can more easily be directed towards creating a plan to achieve the things we want to achieve. 


By adding this one, simple word, we are able to feel inspired to pursue other things to help uplift us, help us keep going, or help us make a positive change. 


Lisa: It feels like that word reminds us that we’re allowed to learn, to get new skills, that we don’t have to have it all together immediately. Additionally, for me, it also interrupts that “I can’t” message enough to remind me that maybe “I can” because I have before. For instance, my automatic thought might be, “I can’t get all this laundry done.” But when I add the “yet”, sometimes my brain will kick in and say, “Why not? You’ve gotten it done in the past. Just do it one step at a time.” When that happens I feel less overwhelmed.


Rachael: Yes. Adding the “yet” interrupts the “I can’t” message enough to begin to let the problem-solving brain kick in, either with the “Yes you can because you’ve been able to before” message, or with a “What would you need to be able to do it?” message. Then you can break down that “one step at a time” into steps that will succeed.


Lisa: It’s also important to be able to break the problem that is overwhelming us down into those smaller steps. What is the technique you teach to help someone do that successfully?


Rachael: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides us with a wonderful approach to be able to make changes and accomplish the goals that we want to achieve. This approach is about setting SMART Goals. 

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. 


Specific requires that our goals be just that—specific. For example, “Cleaning the house” is a goal we all may be familiar with. But this goal is very broad and includes a large number of tasks. However, setting a specific goal means we break this down into smaller, singular pieces. Meaning, “Cleaning the house,” becomes, “Putting away the shoes in the hallway,” or, “Going through the stack of papers on the counter.” Another example might be, “Having a better relationship with my spouse,” becomes, “Making time to check in with my spouse for 5-15 minutes this evening.” And so on.


Measurable means ensuring that we are able to track our progress. It is important that we set goals that allow us to be aware of the progress that we are making, how much we have accomplished and what we have yet to do. Measurable allows us to keep track of the necessary steps towards accomplishing our goals.


Attainable or achievable is a goal that is within our power to complete or accomplish. Often we set goals that require someone else’s involvement or participation, but when making sure our goals are achievable, we have to make sure that they are entirely up to us to make progress and complete our goal.


Realistic indicates that our goals must be reasonable or realistic within the timeframe or resources we have to work with. Let’s go back to our example of “cleaning the house.” If we have 15 minutes before we have to run out the door, it’s obviously not realistic that we can clean the entire house. However, we probably CAN put away the shoes in the hallway or go through the stack of papers on the counter. 


Timely is last, but not least on our SMART Goals break down. Timely simply means having a set time frame for accomplishing our goals. We often say “I’ll get to it today,” or “I’ll do it later,” and sometimes we don’t have any time frame at all, we just say “I need to do this.” But this kind of thinking doesn’t set us up for success. If we set a time, I.e. “by 3 pm,” we will be more motivated and productive in achieving our goal. 


So let’s take one, simple step by adding the word yet to our regular vocabulary. This way we will be able to shift our focus from the “I can’t,” to what we CAN do in a way that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. 





  • Lisa Popcak



A couple of weeks ago a woman named Laura called into More2life. She was feeling completely run down, and like she wasn’t enough. She went on to explain that she had a 10 month old daughter who thankfully had overcome medical issues that were present in her first months of life. She and her husband both had to work full time. She also briefly mentioned that she had some medical issues involving her thyroid and hormones. She said that all the additional appointments and everything she has to do is leaving her feeling frustrated with her life and exhausted. But she was feeling guilty for feeling that way. 


As we talked more it occurred to me that not only was she minimizing her own medical concerns, as though she wasn’t important enough to mention them, she also hadn’t even factored in that when her precious baby was 4 months old the world began the pandemic that we’re all still trying to cope with as I write this. In fact when I mentioned it she gave a little “oh, that old thing” kind of laugh. 


As I started to point out everything she has physically and emotionally gone through over the last 19 months, starting with the beginning of pregnancy until now,she actually seemed surprised. We talked about how she hadn’t had time to emotionally process any of it, or physically recover.


Then I told her how I genuinely, deeply felt, that she is a superhero! Far from feeling guilty for needing time to rest, recover, and reorient, she should instead hear that she is AMAZING!!! Amazing for coping as well as she has, for managing to do everything she’s doing every day, for acknowledging that she didn’t feel right inside, for pursuing help. 


It was a wonderful conversation, and Laura cried with relief at what she was hearing. There were factors in play that she hadn’t taken into account. Being overwhelmed caused her to focus solely on what she perceived, wrongly, as her shortcomings.


How often do we each do  something similar? We are awash with stressors of many kinds. We begin to sense our internal alarm bells going off. We desperately want to fix something so it will stop, so we can have relief and peace. But often our stressed out brains decide to fixate on one thing. “If I could only change______, everything else would get better too.”  We might narrow in on our perception of some aspect of ourselves, a relationship with someone, the work we do, a cause we care about, etc. Often the thing we focus on is too big for us to deal with in a way that will give us any immediate relief. “If I could just... get a different job, lose a large amount of weight, fix all my relationship issues, push the hold button on my life and sleep until I feel completely refreshed, energized, and all the stress magically goes away!” When we feel overwhelmed by the bigness of our target we feel more overwhelmed and disempowered, so much so that we don’t give any value to the things we have managed to do.


This is the place Laura found herself in, like so many of us, especially right now when so many things feel threatening and we’ve lost so much that we took for granted. But as we talked Laura began to see that she was actually coping far better than she gave herself credit for. She began to open a little space in herself for grace and self acknowledgment. We then moved on to things she could do to help her cope better and feel more empowered.


 As the days since our conversation have passed, I have seen more and more of a need for these suggestions for so many people, so I thought I’d share them here.

grace

The first thing I encourage anyone who are feeling similarly to Laura to do is to . It’s really ok if you don’t feel right inside yourself right now. There is so much  presently that  isn’t right or normal so it’s absolutely appropriate to feel off in some or many ways. We’re all grieving the loss of normalcy right now, but many of us are not acknowledging it because we don’t think we have a right to grieve, or we’re afraid to look at it. But that also means that when you do manage to do anything “normal” you need to give yourself lots of extra credit points. Instead of just thinking that any “everyday stuff” you do is ordinary and just expected, allow yourself to realize that the extra emotional weight we’re all carrying is making everything harder to do. Just acknowledging that can bring some much needed grace and relief. So if you do any of those daily tasks, give yourself credit for it and take a moment and give yourself an emotional high-five.


This brings me to some of the practical suggests we gave Laura:


It can be vital when you’re struggling in some way to keep a “got done” list. While “to-do” lists are very helpful to keep our minds on track, they can often have the side effect of making us feel disempowered when we see that we haven’t accomplished everything that’s on them. So it can be energizing and empowering to keep a list of the things you’ve gotten done as you do them. I’m not talking about just the big things off your to-do list. I’m talking about all those little things we usually think of as distractions from the important stuff. This includes things like: changing the babies diaper, cleaning up the spilled mess, comforting the crying child, spending time on the phone fixing the incorrect charge on the credit card, making and cleaning up lunch, finding your child’s missing shoe, spending twenty minutes stuck in a phone queue dealing with another hassles, sorting the mail, etc., etc., etc.  Our lives have so many of these et ceteras, especially in mom life,  that they can eat up our days and leave us feeling defeated and like we haven’t gotten anything important done. But when we take time to actually write them down and review them at the end of the day we begin to give ourselves credit we deserve. We often have that “Wow! I did that! Good for me” moment.


Making a “got-done list” is particularly helpful because feelings follow actions, not the other way around as we often mistakenly believe. Most of us think that when we feel good, or at least better, we’ll get things accomplished. I think this comes from staying home from school on days we were sick as children. We were trained that when we felt well we would return to normal activities. This is right and good if we are contagious and need time to physically heal. But it is the opposite for emotions, by getting up and doing something, even something small like brushing our teeth, then acknowledging and giving ourselves credit for that something, it’s like putting fuel in our emotional tank. We begin to feel able to do the next small thing and the next until we look at our “got-done” list and realize we’re actually accomplishing quite a lot, we feel good about it, and we think we might be able to do it again tomorrow.


Another thing we encouraged Laura to do is to look at the moments in the day that went well, that she felt good about, and then think about the things that attended (not caused) the positive difference. When we examine the little things that attended our better moments, such as what we or our kids have eaten, the amount of rest we’ve gotten and what allowed us to get it, how much fresh air or sunshine we’ve experienced, the atmosphere we’ve created or experienced in our home environment, we can then intentionally begin to put them into place regularly to our advantage.


Lastly, we encouraged Laura to keep a gratitude journal. Again this is something that is best done throughout the day so that you don’t have to try to remember everything at the end of the day when you’re too exhausted to write anything down anyway. Write down anything you are grateful for in the moment. Nothing is too small. But look especially for little ways you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life. Things like: I made my baby giggle, I held the door open for a stranger, I got my family's clothes clean, I spent time getting in touch with a friend, whatever it is, write it in your gratitude journal. You will be encouraged and empowered to have a visual record of the ways you’ve done something positive to bless someone else.


Lastly and most importantly invite God unto the midst of it all. He is not waiting for you to be perfect and then reveal it all to him in a big ta-da moment. He wants to embrace all of you - your fears, insecurities, desires, hopes, all of it. He wants to help. Talk to him about it all. Ask for his help and for clarity. Talk to him about it all through the day. Thanking him for the successes, asking for guidance and help as you need it. He loves you and doesn’t want you to go it alone. Take His grace and extend it to yourself.


Laura is an absolute super-hero! But she hasn’t had the time or energy to recognise it. If you are similarly struggling to give yourself credit for doing the best you can during these weird, uncertain, life changing times (or anytime), here is your written permission slip to do so. Give yourself grace.



A couple of weeks ago a woman named Laura called into More2life. She was feeling completely run down, and like she wasn’t enough. She went on to explain that she had a 10 month old daughter who thankfully had overcome medical issues that were present in her first months of life. She and her husband both had to work full time. She also briefly mentioned that she had some medical issues involving her thyroid and hormones. She said that all the additional appointments and everything she has to do is leaving her feeling frustrated with her life and exhausted. But she was feeling guilty for feeling that way. 


As we talked more it occurred to me that not only was she minimizing her own medical concerns, as though she wasn’t important enough to mention them, she also hadn’t even factored in that when her precious baby was 4 months old the world began the pandemic that we’re all still trying to cope with as I write this. In fact when I mentioned it she gave a little “oh, that old thing” kind of laugh. 


As I started to point out everything she has physically and emotionally gone through over the last 19 months, starting with the beginning of pregnancy until now,she actually seemed surprised. We talked about how she hadn’t had time to emotionally process any of it, or physically recover.


Then I told her how I genuinely, deeply felt, that she is a superhero! Far from feeling guilty for needing time to rest, recover, and reorient, she should instead hear that she is AMAZING!!! Amazing for coping as well as she has, for managing to do everything she’s doing every day, for acknowledging that she didn’t feel right inside, for pursuing help. 


It was a wonderful conversation, and Laura cried with relief at what she was hearing. There were factors in play that she hadn’t taken into account. Being overwhelmed caused her to focus solely on what she perceived, wrongly, as her shortcomings.


How often do we each do  something similar? We are awash with stressors of many kinds. We begin to sense our internal alarm bells going off. We desperately want to fix something so it will stop, so we can have relief and peace. But often our stressed out brains decide to fixate on one thing. “If I could only change______, everything else would get better too.”  We might narrow in on our perception of some aspect of ourselves, a relationship with someone, the work we do, a cause we care about, etc. Often the thing we focus on is too big for us to deal with in a way that will give us any immediate relief. “If I could just... get a different job, lose a large amount of weight, fix all my relationship issues, push the hold button on my life and sleep until I feel completely refreshed, energized, and all the stress magically goes away!” When we feel overwhelmed by the bigness of our target we feel more overwhelmed and disempowered, so much so that we don’t give any value to the things we have managed to do.


This is the place Laura found herself in, like so many of us, especially right now when so many things feel threatening and we’ve lost so much that we took for granted. But as we talked Laura began to see that she was actually coping far better than she gave herself credit for. She began to open a little space in herself for grace and self acknowledgment. We then moved on to things she could do to help her cope better and feel more empowered.


 As the days since our conversation have passed, I have seen more and more of a need for these suggestions for so many people, so I thought I’d share them here.


The first thing I encourage anyone who are feeling similarly to Laura to do is to give yourself grace. It’s really ok if you don’t feel right inside yourself right now. There is so much  presently that  isn’t right or normal so it’s absolutely appropriate to feel off in some or many ways. We’re all grieving the loss of normalcy right now, but many of us are not acknowledging it because we don’t think we have a right to grieve, or we’re afraid to look at it. But that also means that when you do manage to do anything “normal” you need to give yourself lots of extra credit points. Instead of just thinking that any “everyday stuff” you do is ordinary and just expected, allow yourself to realize that the extra emotional weight we’re all carrying is making everything harder to do. Just acknowledging that can bring some much needed grace and relief. So if you do any of those daily tasks, give yourself credit for it and take a moment and give yourself an emotional high-five.


This brings me to some of the practical suggests we gave Laura:


It can be vital when you’re struggling in some way to keep a “got done” list. While “to-do” lists are very helpful to keep our minds on track, they can often have the side effect of making us feel disempowered when we see that we haven’t accomplished everything that’s on them. So it can be energizing and empowering to keep a list of the things you’ve gotten done as you do them. I’m not talking about just the big things off your to-do list. I’m talking about all those little things we usually think of as distractions from the important stuff. This includes things like: changing the babies diaper, cleaning up the spilled mess, comforting the crying child, spending time on the phone fixing the incorrect charge on the credit card, making and cleaning up lunch, finding your child’s missing shoe, spending twenty minutes stuck in a phone queue dealing with another hassles, sorting the mail, etc., etc., etc.  Our lives have so many of these et ceteras, especially in mom life,  that they can eat up our days and leave us feeling defeated and like we haven’t gotten anything important done. But when we take time to actually write them down and review them at the end of the day we begin to give ourselves credit we deserve. We often have that “Wow! I did that! Good for me” moment.


Making a “got-done list” is particularly helpful because feelings follow actions, not the other way around as we often mistakenly believe. Most of us think that when we feel good, or at least better, we’ll get things accomplished. I think this comes from staying home from school on days we were sick as children. We were trained that when we felt well we would return to normal activities. This is right and good if we are contagious and need time to physically heal. But it is the opposite for emotions, by getting up and doing something, even something small like brushing our teeth, then acknowledging and giving ourselves credit for that something, it’s like putting fuel in our emotional tank. We begin to feel able to do the next small thing and the next until we look at our “got-done” list and realize we’re actually accomplishing quite a lot, we feel good about it, and we think we might be able to do it again tomorrow.


Another thing we encouraged Laura to do is to look at the moments in the day that went well, that she felt good about, and then think about the things that attended (not caused) the positive difference. When we examine the little things that attended our better moments, such as what we or our kids have eaten, the amount of rest we’ve gotten and what allowed us to get it, how much fresh air or sunshine we’ve experienced, the atmosphere we’ve created or experienced in our home environment, we can then intentionally begin to put them into place regularly to our advantage.


Lastly, we encouraged Laura to keep a gratitude journal. Again this is something that is best done throughout the day so that you don’t have to try to remember everything at the end of the day when you’re too exhausted to write anything down anyway. Write down anything you are grateful for in the moment. Nothing is too small. But look especially for little ways you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life. Things like: I made my baby giggle, I held the door open for a stranger, I got my family's clothes clean, I spent time getting in touch with a friend, whatever it is, write it in your gratitude journal. You will be encouraged and empowered to have a visual record of the ways you’ve done something positive to bless someone else.


Lastly and most importantly invite God unto the midst of it all. He is not waiting for you to be perfect and then reveal it all to him in a big ta-da moment. He wants to embrace all of you - your fears, insecurities, desires, hopes, all of it. He wants to help. Talk to him about it all. Ask for his help and for clarity. Talk to him about it all through the day. Thanking him for the successes, asking for guidance and help as you need it. He loves you and doesn’t want you to go it alone. Take His grace and extend it to yourself.


Laura is an absolute super-hero! But she hasn’t had the time or energy to recognise it. If you are similarly struggling to give yourself credit for doing the best you can during these weird, uncertain, life changing times (or anytime), here is your written permission slip to do so. Give yourself grace.




If you’d like to hear our call with Laura, as well as the rest of the show you can listen here.

  • Lisa Popcak

Often when I talk to women who have called with a question on More2life radio, I hear words about their concerns that label them, or their loved ones, in some way. Things like,”I’m overwhelmed.”, “He’s got a sanguine personality”, “I’m an introvert but my husband is an extrovert”, “I’m (insert letters) on the MMPI”, “My son is shy”, “My baby is high need”, I’m really type A, and many more.


In many ways these words are very helpful, but they can be limiting. They are labels we give traits in order to help ourselves, and the other people we talk with, to understand tendencies or characteristics in a more efficient way.


It reminds me of organizing a pantry. In pantries we store things like brown sugar, castor sugar, salt, all purpose flour, self-rising flour, cinnamon, nutmeg. Some of these ingredients look very much alike but taste and react very differently when we cook with them. Labeling them allows us to quickly recognize which is which and apply our knowledge of them to know how to use them in recipes. Without these labels our cooking would truly suffer. Confusing the salt and sugar would make for a horrible cake.


But, as in cooking, the label is just a starting point. Let’s take flour as an example. Just looking at a container labeled flour does very little for us. But once we know more about it we can bake lots and lots of wonderful treats. If we learn more we can also use it to create a rue for sauces, or coat chicken for a piccata. If we think outside the kitchen we can even use it to make a paper mache piñata for our child’s birthday.


Just as in our pantries, simply having something in a container with a label on is only a first step. Labeling the traits of ourselves or others isn’t meant to be an end in itself. It’s meant to be a first step in exploring what we can do with that “ingredient”. It doesn’t define us. But instead gives us a bit of information that we can explore in order to use that trait to become our best selves. We can discover how to use that part of us to reach goals and find the blessing of that ingredient in our personality, especially when mixed with our other gifts and talents.


But just like in cooking, this discovery and transformation takes work. A good cook isn’t born knowing how to make a wide variety of excellent dishes. She or he must read and work the recipes of others who know more, learn alongside those who have more experience, and perhaps take classes with experts.


Likewise when we are able to label a trait, we need to learn how to use that trait to benefit ourselves and others. We should talk with others who have that trait and see how they have grown to use it as a blessing. We can read about how to form and achieve goals using that trait positively on our journey. We can consult with great coaches and counselors who have become experts in how to use those characteristics as a boost to help us embrace all the possibilities God may have in store.


Again looking at our pantry, very few of the ingredients are delicious all by themselves. A spoonful of flour, or cinnamon, or almost anything all by itself can be really awful. It can seem useless and disappointing. But when we learn how to combine it with other ingredients and cook it the right way, we can bring out the best in that ingredient and it can feed us and give us joy.


Is there a trait or tendency in you or a family member that you find discouraging, frustrating, or limiting? I encourage you to instead see it as an invitation to explore the positive ways you can train and use that part to bless your life and be a blessing to others.


Just as any ingredient in our pantry can be used in various and wondrous ways when we learn how to use it, we can use any personal label to become the amazing, unique people God created us to be. We just need to be kind to ourselves, and creative while we look beyond the label.