How many times a day do you tell yourself or others that you can’t? Count them. I was shocked at how often these words came out of my mouth after doing a little experiment to find out how frequently I was actually saying them. All the time! What I realized was that saying “I can’t” was as much a bad habit as it was a statement of truth. The real truth is, when you say you can’t, what you’re really saying is, “I chose not to”. So why don’t we just say that? In my opinion, at least in my case, it was for fear of the response. “I chose not to” seemed so harsh, mean and insensitive. But let’s break it down. When someone makes a request of you that prompts the response “I can’t” why is it that we believe their request is more important than our choice?
Vocabulary is a word that we associate with grade school. One definition says vocabulary is the sum of words used by, understood by, or at the command of a particular person or group. I want to really hone in on the “understood” part of this definition. Previously, I would have thought that to mean the definition of the word, the context to use it in etc. But, after my little experiement I now look at “understanding” my vocabulary in a whole new way. The use of words is not something to take for granted. Being consciously aware of what we are saying to ourselves and others puts us in a position of power.
Let me give you some examples to play with:
Heather, can you come to dinner on Sunday?
Old Answer: I can’t, I have a huge presentation on Monday that I want to be prepared for.
New Answer: I’d love to come to dinner, but, I have a presentation to prepare for and it’s really important to me. I’ll pass for Sunday and look forward to our next opportunity to do dinner.
Heather, give me 10 more push-ups.
Old Answer: I can’t, I completely dying right now!
New Answer: I’ll give you five perfect push ups.
Heather, your’re coming down the double black diamond with us this time. It’s full of powder, you’ll love it!
Old Answer: I can’t, I’m too scared.
New Answer: I’m going to do a couple more blue runs to get my confidence up. I’ll consider the run after lunch.
Heather, I need that research completed by noon today.
Old Answer: I can’t I’m completely swamped with email and voicemail.
New Answer: With what’s on my plate right now the soonest I can get it to you is 2pm. Will that work?
The other dangerous use of the word “can’t” is when we tell ourselves we can’t. This sets us up for inevitable failure. I understand there may be things that you believe you “can’t” do and although I disagree, I can definitely empathize. But, instead of telling yourself what you can’t do, tell yourself what you can do. Again, this puts you in a position of power. Don’t give energy to that which you “think” you can’t do. Instead concentrate on all that you can. This shift will allow you to possess a more positive sense of self. By seeing yourself as someone who “can” you will find less and less about you that “can’t”.
I challenge you all to stop using the word “can’t” completely. Find a way to say you can.
You can do it!
“If you think you’re beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
for out in the world we find
Success begins with a person’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind
Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
IS THE ONE WHO THINKS HE CAN”