Our mind is one of the most powerful things we own. The way we think and the words we use determine our reactions to life. Yes, life acts, and then we react. In between we think. So pay close attention to what you think. There are words you may be using without thinking about their true meaning.
Let’s examine the word “can’t.” Have you ever said to yourself or out loud, “I can’t….” As in, “I can’t do it.”
RIGHT NOW, as you are reading this, think of something YOU “can’t” do. For example, people often say something like, “I can’t lose weight, I can’t stop smoking, I can’t forgive, I can’t play the piano…”
So what did YOU think of? What is it that YOU can’t do? This may sound harsh, but did you know that the statements above and the thought you just came up with are lies? Let me explain.
The word “can’t” means cannot be done. If it can’t be done, it is impossible. So, statements like, “I can’t fly like a bird, walk through walls, or run a two minute mile” are all true. Most often when we say we can’t do something we are using the wrong word. “Can’t” is not the right word. The right word is “won’t.” “Won’t” means will not. It means, “I choose not to.”
Listen to the statements above using the word “won’t.” They will sound very different. “I won’t lose weight, I won’t stop smoking, I won’t forgive, or I won’t play the piano.” Now do the same thing with the thought that came to your head initially. All of these are options are actually possible. The difference is that we choose not to do them.
Most of us do not like this change in words because it confronts us with our responsibility for not acting. After all, if you say you “can’t” do it then you let yourself off the hook of responsibility. When you say you can’t, you give yourself permission to not even attempt it.
Can’t lose weight? Don’t even attempt it.
Can’t stop smoking? Just give up.
Can’t forgive? Keep holding a grudge.
Can’t play the piano? You’re too busy, anyway.
Do you understand? You get to give up before you even start when you use “can’t.” Learn instead to take responsibility for your choices. Intentionally make a choice. It is alright to decide not to do something. Just take responsibility for your decision. You may choose not to lose weight, stop smoking, forgive, or play the piano. That’s okay. Make the choice not to, rather than convince yourself it is impossible to do. Taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions puts you in control of yourself, rather than having you feel controlled by habits, emotions, and circumstances.
Pay attention to the way you think, and listen for the word “can’t.” When you hear yourself saying it, challenge it. Replace it with the word “won’t,” and see if it fits better. If you don’t like it when you say it, then it is probably the right word. It will challenge you to make a conscious choice and to exercise responsibility.