what do you mean you can’t?

In motivation, relationships by Jay Clouse

I take issue with the phrase, “I can’t.”

There are a few different meanings behind the phrase, “I can’t:”

  1. I am (truly) physically/mentally/emotionally unable
  2. I believe I am physically/mentally/emotionally unable
  3. I have a conflict and I refuse to prioritize this
  4. I have no conflict I just don’t want to

In the case of meaning #1, the phrase “I can’t” is acceptable. If someone asked me to fit inside my carry on suitcase, I would tell them that I can’t. But this usage of “I can’t” in this context seems to be a small proportion compared to the other three.

In most cases, I hear “I can’t” in the context of “I refuse to prioritize this” whether do to a conflict or just general lack of interest.

And it’s valid to not want to prioritize something for one reason or another, it’s just not congruent with the phrase, “I can’t.” Give us the truth!

Then there’s the self-limiting beliefs of “can’t.”

“Can you turn that idea into a workshop and present it next month?”

I’m sorry, I can’t do that.

You probably could, you may just be uncomfortable. Are you really serving yourself by creating and believing that narrative? Or do you know that you can, you just don’t want to?

Most of the time, “can’t” is a cop out.


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