Breaking the cycle of “I can’t do that”

I see the look in casual discussions in airports, training sessions at conferences, and in one-on-one mentoring.

It’s that sideways eye roll that quietly says, “That won’t work for me, you don’t understand…I can’t do that.”

The eye roll is normal. It’s the expected outcome of promising yourself you’ll do something, trying it, finding that it’s tough, doesn’t come easy, or you can’t even get started. And it makes you feel bad.

The “normal” mental cure for feeling bad is to tell yourself that you can’t do it. You’ll tell yourself, and repeat to others, that it’s your genetics, background, inborn talent, lack of talent, or maybe even your zodiac sign. It lets you off the hook.

I can’t run. I can’t do math. I can’t stop eating junk food. I can’t take tests. I can’t…

Here are three ways to break the cycle of “I can’t.”

  1. Start small: Believing in yourself again starts with believing in self-promises. So start small. Tell yourself you’re taking a 5-minute walk at 9 am today and then take it. Then smile and remember you can trust yourself in other areas too.
  2. Break your day: Don’t change your whole day at first. Break the day into three parts (morning, midday and evening). Begin by working on the mornings and do that for a few weeks. Tell yourself you’ll run (or whatever you choose) and do it. Repeat for a few other activities. By the end of 2-3 weeks, your mornings will set you up for success. And even better…you’ll have stopped saying, “I can’t.”
  3. Know you are normal: You aren’t an above-average driver, a future lottery winner, or a genetically inferior wannabe athlete…you are average (most other people are too.) So if you see other people doing what you want to do…you can too.

What can’t can you do today?


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