Every time you catch yourself saying ‘I can’t’ I want you to recognise the situation for what it is: you imposing limitations on yourself that are holding you back.
Our internet was borked and I was on the phone to iiNet. After we’d troubleshot our way through all the easy and obvious stuff, the lovely, patient iiNet guy induced immediate panic in me when he said:
“We need to reset your router and reconfigure it.”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I can’t, I’m not good at that stuff. It’ll have to wait for my husband to come home this afternoon.”
“Ma’am, it’s ok. We can do this. I’ll walk you through it step by step.”
It was at this point that I remembered a promise I’d made to myself the previous week after listening to this podcast about limiting beliefs. Seth Ellsworth was being interviewed and he pointed out how we think we’re being really self-aware when we choose to avoid doing things ‘we’re not good at’. But really, all we’re doing is imposing limits on ourselves.
After hearing his words I told myself that the next time I caught myself saying or thinking ‘I can’t’, that I would force myself to challenge that limiting belief.
So, it appeared it was time for my first challenge.
I took a deep breath and, with the iiNet guy’s help, got busy working through the steps to reconfigure the router. And no surprise – we did it. It took a while, but we did it!
Want more articles like this? Check out the performance section.
Energised by this experience, the following week when I caught myself saying ‘I can’t’ to going to watch my beloved footy team play a finals game (I’d always believed I just wouldn’t be able to handle the stress) I made myself do it. And to my surprise I found it a LOT less stressful actually being at the game as opposed to watching it in my usual spot, 5cm away from the TV where I could see both the game clock and every single mistake being made.
When a little red battery light suddenly started flashing on my laptop and my laptop started shutting down if it was unplugged for more than five seconds, I initially sighed to myself and wished I was someone who knew how to fix these things. Then I gave myself a shake.
“Kelly, you know how to use Google and you know how to follow instructions. You are someone who can fix your laptop.”
And once again, no surprises … within 90 minutes, Google and I had eliminated that annoying flashing red light from my world, along with the stressful prospect of being laptop-less for a few days while someone else fixed it.
Why the words ‘I can’t’ are so powerful
It’s because they allow us to define ourselves. They enable us tell ourselves a story about who we are, and who we’re not.
And this can be hugely limiting because, as Seth Ellsworth points out in the aforementioned podcast:
“The most powerful force in the entire universe is a human being trying to remain consistent with who they see themselves as.”
Empowered by these above successes I’ve gone on to challenge many an ‘I can’t’ over the past few months. And in truth, they’ve not all yielded positive results. In some situations I’ve found I truly can’t do something. But the finding out of these things has changed the conversations I have with myself.
Nowadays, instead of throwing my hands in the air in self-imposed defeat and wailing ‘I can’t’, I do one of two things:
- Try that thing to see whether I truly can or can’t.
- Mindfully say ‘I won’t do this thing’ or ‘I choose not to do this thing’ because I’ve given it a go before and it didn’t work out for me.
This has had the side effect of putting a bit of fun back into my life because everything is now an experiment. Instead of imposing limits on myself and feeling frustrated by those limits, I am, instead, constantly testing those limits.
And I’m finding they extend much further than I think.