Focus on What You CAN Do, Not What You CAN'T

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Today I woke up, like most other days, in pain and wondering how I would make it through. I have chronic pain, so it would be easy to sit in bed and watch television all day. The problem is that, when you do that, real life passes you by, as it did when I ate my way to 460 pounds and ended up in a bedridden state.

Once bedridden, it was extremely difficult to find a way out of my situation and live again. I had to switch my thinking from what I couldn’t do to what I could do. It took a lot of feeling sorry for myself and grieving my losses to come to that point. I had to realize I could no longer do the things I once did, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything. Then I came back with a renewed spirit.

Giving up my choices is actually about living an unhealthy lifestyle. I was giving up my choices by concentrating on what I couldn’t do. I set myself free by concentrating on what I could do.

So, I couldn’t stand any longer, but I could do chair exercise. I even made up some of my own cardio exercises and strength training after taking physical therapy. At first, even physical therapy had its obstacles. I couldn’t leave the house and I had to fight with insurance to pay for in-home physical therapy. Then there was the fear that it would be the same type of therapy I had always gotten, they would tell me to walk and expect that I could. Not without excruciating pain was that going to happen, and even then, not for very long. Luckily, I won my insurance argument and got in-home physical therapy and I got a therapist who realized I had to build up to walking. She also realized my pain needed to be dealt with.

Is there a law somewhere that a person has to exercise for at least 20 minutes or more to even get the slightest benefit? Nope! According to my therapist and numerous scientific studies, small bouts of fitness add up. Yes, something is always better than nothing. (See that group of people in the photo above? They're my fellow speakers at the SparkPeople Convention in Cincinnati in 2009. They're proof that you CAN do anything!) That's the SparkPeople way!

SparkPeople has a whole team dedicated to seated exercise called The Chair Exercise Team. There is also The ~Indygirl Challenge team that challenges you to make a small healthy change in your life every week, whether you are mobile or not.  Spark ON! is a team dedicated to progress, not perfection. These teams are all easy going motivational "Can Do" teams.

Dieting is another thing I can’t do. What I can do is make healthier choices and cut back at meals and snacks. Foods that make me less hungry, like ones with less sugar/ fat and more protein/ fiber are better. Less packaged meals and more fresh, natural food is better. I can also eat more often in smaller portions, a mini-meal plan. You see, I aim for better, not perfect. I can’t be perfect either. I can be better.

Sometimes people get a very black and white view of fit living. Either you are dieting and exercising or you aren’t. I have a rainbow view. I see all sorts of colors and shades in between in my view. Fit living is very individualized and often includes more than just diet and exercise. What makes one person fit may never work for another. It could be genetics, environment, or just because your lives run in completely different directions.

There is no on or off of fit living. It’s like a winding road with speed bumps, mountains, bridges, detours, vacation spots and a million other things. You are just on the road. Be a positive driver and enjoy the scenery, sing with the radio, have fun with your passengers, and find ways around the obstacles of the road. It’s even okay to stop at the vacation spots here and there.

Don’t give away your freedom to "I can’t." There are far more choices with "I can." If you hit a roadblock, don’t say "I can’t go on until this block ends…" say "What can I do from where I’m sitting now?"

What can YOU do right now?

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Thankyou so much another wonderful message; I love every single one of your DSBlogs and let me know when you write a book because I'll be one of the first to pre-order. Hugs!!!!!!!! Report
Thank you so much! Report
Many thanks to you
I used to work with on & off way
but from today I will work with your way
see what can I do for today not what I cannot
try to live healthy
thanks again
you inspired me alot Report
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story...I hate the word diet; it's about choices for me...If you tell yourself you can't have it; you seem to want it all the more. If I say I can but I choose not to it gives me back my power. I wish you the best. Report
Being a Junior Senior Citizen, who, according to all at the Senior Center where I sometimes eat lunch and use the internet, I'm not supposed to still have all my marbles!!! I just take each day as it comes, watch what I eat, and do my yoga and Tarot meditations. This along with a positive attitude works better for me.
Being negative about anything does not work, it just brings on more hassles. Report
I wish I could have such a positive outlook. Report
Thank you. Just what I needed! Report
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! such inspiration; those words - I can't - is quite the debilitating phrase - I am going to strive to say "what CAN I do?" more often - again, thank you! Report
You helped me stop feeling sorry for myself. Self-pity gave me permission to be critical of my husband for not understanding "how bad things actually are." (He concentrates on the good.) How dare he think I 'm doing better than I am! That's what I thought 5 minutes ago... The light you shined on your own imperfections was bright enough for me to see my own. Thanks to you I'm doing better now. God bless you. Report
I really needed to hear this today! Report
I sooo needed this! I thanked Jehovah, God that I was emailed your blog. I went from doing Turbofire for 3 weeks "training like an athlete" to injuring my knee and walking hurts!! Celulite is returning and inches lost gained. I had an all or nothing attitude. I even stopped caring about what I ate again. Just this week I've gotten back on the eating healthy bandwagon. Just today I tried telling myself something is better than nothing but I didn't BELIEVE it. Now I do! I'm now proud of the 10 minute arm workout I did. I wish you the best on your journey and I'm getting up, dusting myself off, drying my tears, and moving on. Report
I love your enthustic approach!! It has inspired me to keep trying. :) Good Luck To You!! Report
Thank you so much for this inspirational blog! Report
Thank you! I needed to hear this. Report
Thank you so much for this, what an inspiration. Keep up the great work. Report
What can I do? I can walk, swim, dance, hike. What a gift!

I am getting various joint problems - pain, bursitis, plantar fascitis etc so there are some activities that I can't do or shouldn't do. I can't compare myself to others who run 5ks or marathons, play tennis, do traditional pushups or pullups. I often tire of the "go-go" mentality and competitiveness of sports and fitness.

You make sense, Beth. Common sense.

This is a wonderful and inspiring blog. Good Luck and thanks Report
Thanks, Beth, for your wisdom! I have a rainbow view, also, but I never knew how to describe it! You must be a writer.... I'm going to look at those chair exercises right now! Bless you! Report
I can do a legitimate jumping jack. That may not sound like much, but a year ago I couldn't do one. I've lost 79 pounds on a good day and still I struggle with being able to do things that younger, fitter people can do. I just have to remind myself of all the little things I can do now and remember where I've come from. Report
What a positive attitude....I love it! Stay Strong! Report
What a wonderful motivational blog. I don't normally comment on the daily blogs but I just had to on this one! Thanks for posting! Report
I LOVe your outlook, Beth. i especially like the line "You see, I aim for better, not perfect. I canít be perfect either. I can be better." Many of us (including me) struggle with the "all or nothing" mentality. You give me hope. Thank you.

Karen Report
Wonderful blog. You inspired me to start seeking out what I can do and stop beating myself up for what I can't do. You are amazing!!!

Terrific blog!! I have been battling chronic pain and beating myself up for not doing more. I didn't value the 30 minutes of exercise I did do, but was ticked off with myself for the stuff I couldn't do. Your blog is very timely for me and I will do what I can, today. One day at a time. I can't always do what I'd like to do or what others expect of me, but I will do what I can.

My chiropractor has a very nice personal trainer on her staff, but the dear man tried to have me do an exercise that was excruciating, and it was all I could do not to cry in front of everybody. I know he means well, but on this occasion, I simply had to tell him I couldn't do it. The exercise was to stretch my slightly achy hip, not my damaged knee, so it wasn't necessary or intended to improve my mobility. I felt as though I were letting him down, and myself. But he is not a doctor or physical therapist, and I need to listen to my body and do what I can do. And not de-value what I CAN do! Report
I am having an early Hubble effect - my focus is kinda fuzzy - however, this blog is like a lens alignment - it helps clarify. Thank you for taking your time to share with us.
TerrBear Report
thank u. i have chronic pain. it helped to read this. Report
Love the encouraging words. I 2 focus on what I can't do instead of what I can do. People who think different do different. Changing my way of thinking on all things in my life. Report
Thank you for posting! You are an inspiration to me! Good luck to you on your weight loss journey! Report
U R amazing! Keep rolling, girl! Report
Beth, this is great! Just what I needed to hear right now! As always, you're amazing! Report
Great blog. I interact daily with fellow Sparkers who say they are on or off the wagon, as if you have to do everything right or be failing. I say there is no on or off and there is no wagon - there is just your life. This isn't a matter of all or nothing, it's a matter of one choice at a time.
Here's to continuing our lives in a healthy manner! Report
"What can I do from where I'm sitting now.".....Wonderful words! Report
Great words of wisdom for me to practise.. Thank you Report
I am so touched by your blog. My younger sister lives in a nursing home! She is only 63 and has lived there for several years. It breaks my heart. But that is a different story. As I read your blog, I realize that her lack of support in that tiny town home (with "well meaning, give you whatever you want to eat and no, you don't have to get up and walk if you don't want to" caregivers) is doing as best they can. However, my sister can help them help her by providing some of these ideas. I just printed this and am sending it to her. She does not use the computer. Thank You.! Report
Your story is such an inspiration to me. Thankyou for sharing it! Report
Thank you for some great insights, Beth, that apply to all of us - fit, unfit or somewhere in between.

Your blog should be required reading for primary care providers. It might help them help their patients much more compassionately and effectively. Report
Great blog! Many of you comments really struck a chord with me... I have always been something of a health started to disintigrate about five years ago and I became unable work (RN x 27 years) in 2009. I am in pain every day due to the health issues--I suddenly lost my identity and felt hopeless and worthless due to a series of losses that followed my declining health... I physically cannot do a lot of things anymore and I focused on all the things that I couldn't do for a long time. Recently, I have begun to look for the things that I can do and build upon. I came to SP just about 7 weeks ago; I can't say that the light bulb has totally turned on--but it is flickering! LOL I have realized that this is developing a lifestyle-not going on another diet; weightloss is a nice 'side effect'. No one is judging me, except me; I don't have to be PERFECT--I AM making PROGRESS!! I loved the phrase you used, "dedicated to progress, not perfection"! Thank you for your sharing and inspiration. Report
I admire you so much for the changes you've made in your life and your attitude, so positive and determined, unwilling to let any roadblock defeat you and be the "end of the road." I get a lot of encouragement from your progress. On days when arthritis is flaring and my joints are hurting, I remember where you started and how far you've come, and that gives me the courage to push myself past my inertia, get up, and try. You are an inspiration to more people that you will probably ever realize, Beth. Thank you! Report
I love the way you share your motivation and inspire so many. You definitely have a gift. Thanks for being you! I'll be doing what I CAN now and stop my whining. Report
More quotes for my "Beth Donovan" quote notebook. Thanks Beth. You uplift my spirit every time. Report
Thank you for this uplifting blog. I have chronic pain from fibromylgia and always focused on the things I couldn't do. The weight made things worse and I know it but just felt I couldn't do anything about it. Finally I decided I would try to exercise and see if it helped. Wow..what a difference in how I feel. I haven't had a fibro flare in 2 months which is amazing. No weight loss yet which is frustrating but with motivation like yours on SP I am going to keep on trying. Report
Wonderful, excellent choices. I always say accentaute the positive and my mother would say actions speak louder than words.
You put the words in to action and you are benefitting from you actions. Admirable job PLEASE keep up the good job you are doing going after your healthy journey.
I wish you success in every way. I am so happy you found a therapist who is doing it right.
I had ruptured disks, I have known pain and I hope your is under control very soon. HUGS for a job well done. Pat in Maine. Report
Love your blog! Very positive and upbeat! Congratulations on your progress and victory! Report
Fantastic blog, Beth and an inspiration to all who read it. Report
Wow! You look great.
Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story.
You are such an inspiration!
We all have dreams and wishes but it is our action
that brings our dreams and wishes to life.
Keep fit, Keep healthy. Report
Thank you for this blog, Beth.
This is pure motivation and inspiration in one of the most beautiful forms I've ever seen.
With a history of anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive eating, the hardest thing for me to change has been my perspective of me and of what I can and can't do.

Thank you so very much for sharing your insight.

I am finally free!

~jms Report
You are so right in all that you say. I was in a similar situation when I first became disabled. It too me a long while to come to terms with it and I was slipping down a very slippery slope. If it had not been for the love and commitmeent of my family I owuld not be in the position I am now. I slowly began to turn myself around and am now a very active personn within my limitations of course. I have stopped seeing physiotherapists and have one Consultant's visit left before I am completely free of them as well. I rarely go to see my doctor and am leading what I consider to be a full life. In fact, there are not enough hours in the day now. If anything I am now finding that I have to force myself to take a day off and rest as I enjoy my lifestyle. I have lost a lot of weight and without really dieting. All I needed was a push in the right direction and that was the crux of the matter for me. Stories like yours are so inspiring and I know exactly what you went through mentally so I applaud oyu with a standing ovation. Spark has also been of great help to me and especially the suuport of my team friends from the Team for Disabilities. In fact they have been crucial in my rehabilitation. With a family and on line friends like I have there is no more excuses. I would say well done but these are just words. Words cannot describe adequately what you have now achieved. I ran a campaign fro oer two years to try and get my government to realise that just because we are disabled it does not mean we are useless. Whilst my government in Scotland supported me I still have not managed to sway general opinion and the main UK government still will not acknowledge this fact properly. These people in their ivory towers need to read stories like yours and maybe, just maybe, they will change their ideas and focus on what we CAN do and not what we CANNOT, as is the general opinion with most people who see a person in a wheelchair. A sad reflectoin on the geenral public so getting oyur story out is so important and it deserves a wider audience. Report
Thank you for your moyivational words. You have spoken well. I will always remember to do the things can, and not what I can't do.
All the best. Report
You have put into words so very well what I have had to discover a while back. I have to focus on the things I can still do, not what I can no longer do. I also focus on how far I have come, not how far I have to go. You are inspirational. Report
Motivational and empowering blog. Thanks! Report
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