I had this post half written in my head. I knew what I wanted to say, where I wanted to go with it… then I got busy with life stuff and didn’t get it down on paper. Along the way, this image popped up in a memory. I posted it a year ago, and reposted it. People laughed as intended, but the more I looked at it, the more it struck me.

Who of us hasn’t fixated on the issue and lost the thread, the ability to find the answer? Look, our minds are annoying things sometimes. We lock in on the problem, on the negative, and ignore the positives. I’ve talked about this before, of course, and will again. It’s something we all deal with. It’s never going to go completely away – we just have to learn to put it in its place.

We put ourselves in a box and struggle to get out of it. The language we use when we speak to ourselves is a key part of the issue. The more I looked at this picture, the more I thought about “can’t”.

Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (ELO)

I could never count of the number of times I’ve said “I can’t” in the last couple years, much less ever. I hear it all the time, too. So let’s start with some of my all time hits:

I can’t work out, I’m too busy.

I can’t run.

I can’t do that right now, I need to rest for a few minutes. (This was a common refrain after mowing the lawn – with a self-propelled mower I might add – and The Boy wanted to do, well, anything.)

The list goes on, of course. Maybe you see some of your faves in there. Look, let’s be real – a lot of the time when we knee jerk with “I can’t,” what we are really saying is “I don’t want to” or “I’m not willing to.” Of course, we will never admit that to ourselves or others, so it’s easier to say “I can’t.”

I was at a run club last week; one of the guys was talking about his legs being tight and sore. Apparently a couple of weeks earlier he was advised to do stretching and foam rolling; his answer was, “I don’t want to do the work though.” While I’ll give him props for his honesty, the leg stretch fairy isn’t going to take care of it for you… So you can do the work or deal with the soreness.

So many times I hear things like “I can’t run” – when what they really mean is “I can’t run like that person” or “I can’t run as fast as I want to” – and that’s where our brains really get in the way. We put unfair standards on ourselves and see someone running six minute miles (looking at you guys, Joe and Aaron), so if we don’t do that, we’re failing. Then, once we’ve “tried” and failed (to meet unreasonable standards), we can let ourselves off the hook.

Usain Bolt (you may have heard of him) said “I trained 4 years to run 9 seconds. Some people don’t see results in 2 months and give up.” I love this quote; believe me I fully understand that he’s a gifted athlete and I could train for 40 years and not run like he does. The point is, though, that this doesn’t happen overnight. We talk about goals and intermediate steps a lot; little wins along the way keep you motivated.

The next time you start to say, “I can’t” – just pause for a second and think about the standard you are trying to reach. “I can’t run like Eliud Kipchoge” is not the same as “I can’t run.” If you run for 30 seconds today, you are a runner. You can run. Now try for 45 seconds tomorrow. Build your stamina and your pace. You can run – so get that out of your head!

Not One Minute More

I need room to breathe, I work for the goals that I set

Wasted time weighs on my mind

You can bet

I can’t wait one minute more

– CIV, Can’t Wait One Minute More

The other “can’t” I want to touch on is the procrastination one. Yes, you have a ton going on. You can’t do it right now. But you can! You find time to read some lousy blog post (easy now…) for five minutes, or check in on Julietta Whoeverthefuck’s Facebook posts, or do whatever you do. You can make it happen if it matters to you. Stop making excuses, stop wasting precious minutes, and make it happen – or stop complaining about it!

Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story, to paraphrase John Barth. In reality, though, there is a thin line. A lot of us tend to play the victim, the tragic figure, with the odds stacked against us. Sure, it makes extra drama in the movies – but when you assume that role in your head, you can start to believe it. That’s where “I can’t” comes from – if truly the whole world is against you, then yes, it will be nearly impossible.

Take a moment, though, look around, and realize that you are not so alone. Who is your core, your tribe, your “ride or die”? If you don’t acknowledge their help and support, if you insist you are all alone, you are dissing them whether you mean to or not.

I love goal setting, so here’s my goal for you. Go one week without saying “I can’t” in any context. Just remove it from your vocabulary for one week. See how it feels. Trust yourself and your people. Now go out and live it! I can’t can hardly wait to hear how it goes!

Photo by Moritz Mentges on Unsplash