A truly healthy thing you can do to understand what’s not working in your life is EXAMINE how often you hear yourself say — either out loud, or more harmfully, quietly flowing through your thoughts — “I CAN’T!“ For many, if not most of us, the thought is more frequent than we actually HEAR or pay attention to. Meaning? It can become such a frequent lament in your mind you actually miss the reality of the statement turning over and over in your thoughts — causing the block in progress.
So where does the belief that “I can’t” originate? Most people heard many sentences of “you can’t” growing up — from parents, teachers, friends. Consequently there is possibly a root system that goes back to childhood and well engrained ideas of both necessary and unnecessary limitations. And while childhood issues are useful as “a thread” of history to pull on and understand, start first, to understand “I Can’t” is likely a THOUGHT DISTORTION. That just means it’s highly likely to be untrue — an exaggeration, an inflammatory thought. And when you simply WRITE DOWN what you’ve said you can’t do, you are prepared to examine the truth of the statement.
Are there things I Can’t do? Sure. For example, after a certain age, there are some things you actually no longer “qualify” to do — like join the military! Beyond cultural, societal rules, laws and regulations, the purpose of writing down your thoughts about limitations is to examine the reality of what you are telling yourself. “I don’t want to” is a harder and more honest thing to say. So is “I don’t know how”….or “it’s not in my skill set/ability.”
Simply remember, the minute you HEAR the “I can’t” in your mind, you have likely crossed something off your list, and you want to make sure you WANT it crossed off.
We say “I can’t” as a protection against fear, or failure, or concern that “I might not be able t do it/I might not be good at it.” I, for example, will never be a math or science whiz…the CAN’T there for me is lack of skill, ability and the desire to challenge myself in those areas. And far, far on the opposite end of the continuum of things to tackle would be something like: “I can’t clean my closet this weekend!” The reality: I do not WANT TO DO IT. But the I Can’t stops me in my tracks. If I say I don’t want to, I open a separate “door” in my brain — in my thinking and reflecting. I pause. I’m being more honest vs self limiting. I’ll be able to think about a plan for the closet vs shutting the task down completely. The point that’s different: I’m CAPABLE but not MOTIVATED.
If you have goals and plans that seem on hold, things you truly want to do but simply aren’t progressing, look for the distorted and limiting thinking you perhaps are not hearing clearly. Write the I can’t message in detail. Then see if you can “tell yourself a more accurate and truthful statement.” Even something like “it’s hard and I’m not ready” doesn’t throw up a big road block….it instead helps you think more clearly and perhaps tackle what is hard and what would help you feel ready.
A client once shared she would like to travel in France by herself but couldn’t speak French. Consequently she had crossed it off her most desired thing to do list. We backed up in her thoughts…the ONLY I CAN’T was speaking French….so she decided, slowly, to tackle French lessons….it moved her from a road block to a task she could work on.
Most “I can’t messages” are more complex, less clear — the writing down, however, does help. You list the limitations, the in between tasks that would lead to reaching your goal. If nothing else you can perhaps realistically take something off your list and stop making yourself feel bad because you aren’t doing something you KNOW somewhere in your mind, you just aren’t going to do.
First: LISTEN TO YOUR THOUGHTS! Write them down. Tackle them. Tell yourself the truth. You’ll feel less stressed and more able to get started on things you really, truly want to do in life. You can always read more about thought distortions in my other blogs…or check out my book: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH!
And talk to someone you trust about your goals….hear yourself say out loud what you really want to do but are telling yourself you CAN’T…..