When I was in high school, someone told me: "The words 'I can't' are best used sparingly." It's been over fifteen years and I still remember that.
It's a great piece of advice, isn't it?
How we think and what we say can make a huge impact on our habits and behaviors.
For instance, think about where the words "I can't" show up in how you think and speak:
- I can't lose weight
- I can't quit smoking
- I can't go a week without sugar
- I can't give up soda
- I can't run for more than 5 minutes
Notice how disempowered and restricted you feel when you use these words. There is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, like your future is already mapped out for you and there's nothing you can do about it.
"I can't" is a very limited way of thinking based on beliefs you hold that probably aren't true.
Now replace the words "I can't" with "I don't" (or "I don't want to") and notice how that changes the meaning of what you say.
"I don't" or "I don't want to" assumes that you can do anything but you're choosing not to...it's a more empowering way of thinking that takes you out of victim mentality.
For instance, if you said "I can't run a half marathon" then chances are you won't even bother trying.
If instead, you said "I don't want to run a half marathon" then this way of thinking not only frames it as a choice, but also allows you to take it a step further and dig deeper into why.
Why don't you want to run a half marathon?
- Are you not willing to put in the time to train for it?
- Are you afraid you're not going to finish the race?
- Are you afraid of getting injured as a result of over-training?
This exercise will help you determine themes that repeatedly hold you back in other areas of your life.
For instance, in this example you could ask yourself:
- Where else in my life do I struggle with time management?
- Where else in my life do I fear failure?
- Where else in my life am I overly cautious?
(By the way, let go of all judgment here - this exercise is designed for you to get to know yourself better, not to make you feel bad about yourself!)
The more aware we are of ourselves -- everything from what motivates us to what stops us to what scares us -- the better we can work with ourselves to get the results we want in our lives.
Each and every one of us has the ability to dismantle these limiting beliefs and create new empowering ones.
So the next time you catch yourself saying "I can't", replace it with "I don't" or "I don't want to" or even "I'm choosing not to" and notice what opens up for you.
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