Lead Your Life

Leadership, Awareness, and Growth

Can’t Vs. Won’t April 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 7:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

I had a discussion today with an amazing woman I admire.  She was frustrated about a seminar she wants to attend but “can’t” afford.    

Can’t is a funny word.  It’s dangerous and disempowering.  It assumes the role of victim, as if something is impossible due to external circumstances.  How often have you heard people say,

  • I can’t access the funding.
  • I can’t find the time to work on (fill in the blank).
  • I can’t say no.
  • I can’t learn that skill. (In other words… I’m not smart enough).
  • I can’t afford to take that risk.
  • I can’t address that with so and so. 

In each of these statements, the person is basically self-prescribing incompetence, indecision, and willingness to give up, check out, & short change their experience. 

The truth is: “I Can’t” is almost always a self-deception.  A way to wiggle out, wimp out, & stay put.  It also is never really true as there are very few things we genuinely “can’t” do. 

Almost always, “I won’t” is the brutal reality.  Which is great, because “I won’t” is a much more empowering position.  It acknowledges the truth:  I am not willing to do what it takes. 

  • I won’t do what it takes to access the funding.
  • I won’t find the time to work on (fill in the blank).
  • I won’t learn that skill. (I’m smart enough but I don’t want to work that hard).
  • I won’t take that risk…

When we call it what it is:  A lack of willingness to do what it takes – we suddenly have a choice.  We can change our minds about our willingness to give more, do more, work harder, get creative, try again, work smarter, etc.  When we say “I can’t,” that’s pretty much the end of it. 

Challenge yourself today to choose your words carefully.  See what happens if you replace your “I can’ts with “I won’t.”

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5 Responses to “Can’t Vs. Won’t”

  1. carol Says:

    That’s a great post, Laura. So true. Words are powerful and can be used as amunition. We must use them wisely!

  2. Jennifer Winzeler Says:

    Hey Laura,
    I am appreciating this again today as I caught myself in my words. Thanks for posting this as it is great to have the ability to come back and reread perhaps, again and again. 🙂
    Today, I won’t let the rainy weather get me down. I WON’T 🙂

  3. Ian Kirk Says:

    This is so true and what I also find fascinating is that when some tells you they “can’t” they are also telling you why they should. I have a very direct way of coaching my team, and some really don’t like that, I just ask them how long do they want to have that “challenge”. Sometimes the world “problem” slips out and I want to bite my tongue because thats a little too straightforward for people.

    • laurajuarez Says:

      I always follow the “can’ts” up with the question of possibility. I ask if it’s impossible. And the answer is always no. So, the follow up is “what will it take for you to seize the challenge” or simply acknowledge that what they are really saying is they believe THEY can’t do it but that someone else could and what the difference is between them and the other. We all go to a place of can’ts sometimes, but some people can coach themselves through. It’s a habit worth teaching and building.


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