2 of the laziest words
5 letters that hurt your mindset
Can you not say “I can’t”?
While this sentence contains only 5 letters and two words – I struggle to think of anything with more day-to-day influence over your mindset and behavior.
Think about it:
- It is definitive – there is neither debate nor question in these words.
- They do not inspire inquiry nor probe – it is a statement of presumed fact.
- You do not launch into creative problem solving after uttering this phrase; instead – it reflects a “game over” mindset.
You would think with this type of power and influence, we’d be quite select in when we pull out this phrase for public use. For example, if you asked me to run a 4-minute mile or to take a 6-month vacation, I would be willing (and justified) to say -“I can’t.”
No, we don’t wait for anything so dramatic or daunting. We pull “I can’t” out on a daily basis.
“Can you call me later?”
“Can you get me that report?”
“Can you leave work early today and pick up the girls?”
Can you join us at Bible study tonight?”
My retort to all is a quick – “Sorry, I can’t.” (Good for me – at least I said I’m sorry!).
For this post I’m not going to launch into a diatribe about time management, empowerment or some other kitschy motivational speech.
Instead, I challenge you to join me in an experiment.
I ask you do one thing for me. Do it for a week and see what happens. It doesn’t hurt, but it does take some self-awareness and self-discipline.
Will you try?
(If any of you just thought to your self – “I can’t” – stop reading and go away – you may be hopeless J!
Here’s the challenge: deliberately select between “I can’t” and “I choose not to” when responding to requests, inquiries or invitations.
Sound simple? It should be.
Sound silly? You’ll be surprised – there is a subtle, but powerful difference in these two phrases. Think about it.
- “I can’t” is telling your self (and the audience) that you literally do not have the ability. Can’t, at its core, is an issue of skill, ability or competence.
- “I choose not to” is much more empowering (and honest). It suggests that the ability is there, but it is something you are choosing not to deploy at this particular point in time.
Using “I choose not to” empowers you. It reflects that you are in charge and you are making the decisions deemed best.
“I can’t” is a victim statement. It reflects that you are unable to influence the situation – you are stuck.
Remember – the words you use have a powerful influence over your mindset. Think about these two phrases and the impact they have, subtly or overt, on your thinking:
- Which mindset is more empowering?
- Which mindset is more genuine & authentic?
- Which mindset suggests you have ownership over your decisions/choices?
- Which is more honest?
Aren’t these the elements that you, as a leader, want to instill in your employees? I think the answer to this question is obvious.
Give it a try. It is a powerful leadership technique.
Make this subtle change and see the impact it has on your mindset.
If you dare, help those around you increase their personal honesty. When you hear someone quick to say “I can’t” – ask if it would be better said as “I choose not to.” You might create some ah-ha moments.
If you “choose” to comment – I’d love to hear about your experiment and learning!