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Four Reasons You Will Say You Can’t

Updated: Dec 21, 2022


Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


Have you ever thought, “I can’t do that” or “That is something I could never do”? Such thoughts are common, but from where do they come? Let’s look at some causes of what you say you can, can’t, or won’t do and a way to turn some of these around.

Can’t you, or won’t you? Something many of us learn as a reality in life is that a man or woman can do practically anything they want to do. The problem is when they don’t or won’t even make an attempt. Why causes this? One of the primary reasons many say they can’t is that they don’t want to. They do not have it in their heart, lack motivation, or plain old just don’t want to do it. Whatever it is. There appear to be at least four reasons people will say they can’t do something or won’t make an attempt.

  • A lack of desire

  • A lack of motivation

  • The fear of failing

  • Little or no belief in themselves

Desire — If you have no desire to do something, the reality is not that you can’t, but you simply do not want to, so why try?

Motivation — If you lack motivation, why attempt to do something? It would probably be a waste of time, and the likelihood you won’t do it is very high.

Fear — Fear can stop you in your tracks and keep you from attempting to do anything. Do you want to do it (whatever it is)? Ruling out lack of desire and motivation, is only fear stopping you, or is there something more?

Belief — When you lack belief in yourself and your ability to do something, like fear, it can stop you in your tracks.

Admittedly, you can do little if you lack desire or motivation. Let’s not spend time hypothesizing about these and consider what you can do but don’t.

What is your assumption? Can you or can’t you? That is the question we will examine. How can you change a can’t to a can? First, you must get to the root of the issue. You can do this by questioning the assumption that you can’t. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Am I saying I can’t because I am afraid I might fail?”

  • “Am I saying I can’t because I am unsure of myself or my ability to do it?”

By exposing your assumption, you position yourself to begin working on changing the can’t to a can, which can put you on the road to change.

“The problem with assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.” Miguel Angel Ruiz (1952-present)


This change will start by realizing all assumptions are just that, assumptions. An assumption often contains little or no truth and can backfire, as in the old saying, “when you assume, you make an a** out of you and me, written as making an a**/u/me. You can replace the asterisks!


Change your focus

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean (1928–2010)

The issue with letting fear or a lack of belief interfere in your life is where your focus lies. You limit yourself whenever you focus on what you can’t do or have. This focus is on the negative, derailing you before you start.

You create a self-limiting belief by focusing on what you can’t do. Yes, you read that correctly. By focusing on the negative, you impose a limit on yourself! Too often, you will choose to accept that limit. How do you remedy this? Change your focus!

Since you created the self-limiting belief, you can undo or destroy it. To do this, turn your focus from what you can’t do to what you can do. Whenever the thought “I can’t do that!” comes up, stop and ask, “What CAN I do?”

I often stop and mentally shift myself or my clients 180 degrees and ask: “What can I/you/we do?”

When asked such a question, you naturally seek an answer. The results are often surprising.

Example While working with a leader whose company had not grown for several years, he soon saw how useless it was to focus on what he and his people couldn’t do.

This transition came after a few coaching sessions challenging him to turn off the can’ts and turn on the cans. To turn from the negative to the positive.

This gentleman had been steeped in years of thinking and hearing what they couldn’t do, so it took some time to make the transition. He started experimenting by asking people what they could do when they came to him with a can’t. Within what seemed like weeks, a significant shift occurred in the company.

Yes, there were still naysayers, but this small change in thinking became the turning point for the company. As they had more and more success, they put the company onto the growing and profitable course it is on today.

Was it easy? No. But his persistence in focusing on the can instead of the can’t made all the difference.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Henry Ford (1863–1947)

Learning to refocus The process behind refocusing the direction of your thoughts on what you can do is simple, yet it is not always easy. Take it one step at a time. Experiment with it so you can experience its results. You will begin to refocus on the positive can-do as soon as you start seeing the difference it makes.

It’s well-documented that our minds can only deal with one thought at a time. When we attempt to multi-task, such as thinking about what we can and can’t do, we switch back and forth between the can and the can’t. This restricts the full use of our brains, limiting the quality of our thinking.

Anytime you say or think you can’t do something, put the thought aside. Focus fully on the opposite — what you can do. When you think about what you can do in a given situation, you focus your energy on creating what you want, moving toward what you desire.

I am not saying you should continue to ignore the current reality of a situation. However, what we perceive as reality is often incomplete and only a tiny part of the larger whole. It’s safe to put it aside for a while.

Example Let’s say you did a lot of research on a specific car you wanted. You go to a car dealer and realize the price tag is more than you want to pay and say to yourself, “Wow, this car costs more than I want to spend. As much as I want it, I can’t justify spending that much money.” This is reality, and nothing can change it other than a considerable discount from the dealer. You can stand there, believe you can’t afford it, and leave disappointed. Or perhaps, you can ask yourself: “What do I really want?” and “What can I do?”

In researching the car, you uncovered a great deal about what you want. You like the styling, the interior, and the way the car handles and drives. On an emotional level, you have your “heart set” on this car. (Emotions, by the way, not logic, drives buying decisions.) Feeling disheartened as you exit the showroom, you notice a row of used cars. There you see the same vehicle — virtually identical but two years older. It’s even in the color you want!

You turn around and go back into the showroom and ask the salesperson, “How much is that diamond white car?” She gets the price for you, which is considerably less than the new car. It has very few miles on it and is in excellent condition inside and out. It has every option you want and more. You begin to get excited again.

This actually happened to me some years ago. I usually purchase new cars and was disappointed by the price. When I saw the slightly used car, I recall thinking, that sure is a nice car! Fortunately, it was also far more affordable.

In my car-shopping experience, I shifted my perspective from wanting a new car to realizing some reliable used vehicles are available — many like new with excellent warranties. And the savings can be significant. That day, my range of choices widened considerably.

Final thoughts

“Some… have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.” Martha Graham (1894–1991)

With a bit of practice, it is easy to begin replacing can’ts with cans. This shift from the negative to the positive can be a real life-changer once you get a firm hold on it. Just remember this one thing:

There is always something you CAN do!



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