You can…

After the Thanksgiving weekend – giving thanks, practicing gratitude, and spending time with family and friends, I have decided to begin a series on what I refer to as “Positive Speech”.  Why? Because I want you all to start off the New Year with positive thoughts and habits and, this way, we are getting an early start.  Because there are a slew of words people use in their everyday lives that are DIS-empowering, my goal, starting today, is to get you to shift toward EMPOWERING speech.

One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford and it goes like this, Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.  Repeat the saying to yourself and think about it for a minute.  In other words, if you “believe you can”, you are optimistically looking at something, whatever it may be in that moment and, by simply saying “you can”, you will shift an “impossibility” to a possibility.  However, if you “believe you can’t”, well then, sadly, you just closed the door to the possibility of being able to or, at the very least, you have put up a formidable barrier to being able to accomplish whatever it is you are saying “you can’t” do.  Either way, you are right.  It is that simple!

I have shared Henry Ford’s sage words with students on the firearms range, during therapy sessions, with colleagues and friends when they have all been experiencing doubt.  I tell them that by saying you “can’t” do something, you are already doubting yourself, throwing up the white flag, closing the door and locking it.  Why would you do this?  Ugh.  I get frustrated even writing about this.  It’s not that you CAN’T.  Even if you really and truly “can’t” do something (e.g. fly a B-212 Helicopter), there is always a different and more positive way to express that.

Confession — I have a visceral reaction when I hear someone utter, “I can’t” in ANY context. It literally makes me cringe or, more often, I close my eyes, shake my head, and scrunch up my face.  The word can’t is ugly, it’s disempowering, it’s defeating, AND it’s not part of my vocabulary – at least not since I recognized how negative it is.  

And, it’s not just in situations when people are doubting themselves.  People use “can’t” in response to everyday questions, such as:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?  No, I can’t.  
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow?  I can’t. 
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?  No, I can’t.

Ick, ick, and ICK!!!  It’s not that you CAN’T; in fact, you actually CAN.  However, instead of being honest, you choose the icky I can’t as your default answer.  There are so many ways these questions can be answered in a more positive and/or honest way.  How about this:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?   
    • No thanks.  I have other plans on Friday.  Maybe another night.
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow? 
    • Oh, bummer, I’ll be working.  If you change your ticket, let me know, I could leave work as early as 4pm tomorrow.
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?
    • Oh gosh, I am short on cash this month and don’t want to stress myself out.

Now, there is another perspective as well.  Maybe you are just not up for the task or you are not willing to do the thing(s) being asked of you.  No problem!  It’s better to be honest about whatever is being asked vs. saying, “I can’t”.  Try these out:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night? 
    • I am just not up for hanging out this weekend.  Maybe another day/week (this is an honest answer and not at all icky).
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow? 
    • I am slammed at work and me leaving to do something personal is too stressful right now (this is essentially saying you are not willing to do this in an honest context that 100% supports your answer).
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?
    • I have a personal rule of not lending money to friends (again, you are essentially saying you are not willing to lend this person money.  By sharing your “personal rule”, although maybe a bit awkward, will lay a foundation.  That person will (hopefully) never ask to borrow money again).

Responding honestly, in a positive way, is not just empowering, it is so freeing.  Ok, so it might be a bit uncomfortable at first for some of you BUT I promise it gets easier and it feels great.

The moral of this “mini series” is:  Words reinforce your thinking.  Positive thinking is reinforced by positive speech and vice versa.  Your words create your destiny…

So, today, remove the word, “CAN’T” from your speech.  I am confident you CAN do this!  Let me know how it goes!

 

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