I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “can’t” lately. Since I started triathlon training, so many of my previously ingrained “can’t” beliefs about myself have been shattered, turned around, evaporated. Some of them are big and some of them are small, but I realize how in many instances, “can’t” has really meant (until now) “prefer not to.” Heh.
can’tpreferred not to bike or swim. I can only run.
can’tpreferred not to ride a bike in traffic or anywhere near cars.
can’tdidn’t train so that I was able to swim more than 4 lengths of a pool. (ahem: last night swam 76 lengths!)
- When I’m swimming, I
can’tprefer not to breathe on my left side.
can’twould rather not but am willing to try to ride a bike with toe clips.
Language makes such a difference doesn’t it? In our heads and in our reality. I can’t even describe how many YEARS (decades) I used to say out loud, “I can’t bike or swim.” Well clearly that isn’t true. But the truth was, I preferred not to, and I CHOSE not to. But it wasn’t that I couldn’t.
This little one about breathing on the left side. Haha. Well, the truth is, that it’s awkward, and I turn my head in an uncomfortable and spazzy way, and I end up sometimes gulping water when I try to breath on my left side. Which is why I most often CHOSE to only breathe on my right side. But our swim coach Angie kept reminding us that it would be a good thing to be able to swim bilaterally because what if we are in open water and the wind and waves are ALL on the right side. That would not be good. So last night during our OYO swim workout I really, really practiced the left sided breathing. It did not feel easy or fun or natural. But at the end of the evening I had not drowned and I had clearly succeeded in doing even awkward, flawed left sided breathing. So I have no business saying “I can’t.”
RIght now I feel myself tending toward thinking things like, “I can’t run six miles after I’ve ridden 24 miles and swam a mile.” I’ve got to stop thinking those thoughts. I’m working on repeating to myself, “I am TRAINING to ride six miles after riding 24 and swimming one, and when the time comes, I WILL BE READY.” I believe I can’t do it today or this week, but I have to have the belief that when November comes I WILL be ready.
August 18, 2011 at 1:10 am
Wow! What a difference language makes. Thanks for this one.
August 18, 2011 at 2:29 am
Beautifully stated. Prefer not to. Am going to use this. I needed this tonight.
August 18, 2011 at 10:31 am
I love this – lately I’ve been reminding myself of this kind of language when I say someone or something “made” me do something or I “had” to do it. No, I always have a choice – it might be a choice between a rock and a hard place, but there’s always another option.
August 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm
This is so helpful to me. I have been walking and biking, and thinking about what I will do for exercise in the winter, when it gets dark at about 4:30 pm and there’s a foot of snow outside. It’s not that I can’t go to the gym, it’s that I don’t enjoy it as much as outdoor exercise. I can. And unless I learn to snowshoe, I probably will. 🙂
August 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm
Wow I really appreciate this re-framing. I used to say I “can’t” run now I can run for hours. Makes me want to re-think my I “can’t” do a triathlon because I “can’t” swim stance.
August 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm
I’ve definitely been discovering the power of language and how so much of trying to lose weight has to do with mental strength. I like your idea of replacing ‘can’t’ with ‘chose not to’ – it kind of puts things in perspective and gives you a choice. At the moment a frequent mantra of mine is I know I can. I know I can.” 🙂
August 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm
Excellent…and something I so very much needed to read. It’s funny because I once wrote a post about how the word “can’t” really takes our power away. Sure, deciding not to, for whatever reason, is certainly okay, but don’t give your power away by saying “I can’t” when the reality is, “I don’t want to” or even “I choose not to.” And it’s funny how it creeps into every day life…
August 19, 2011 at 5:48 am
I saw this yesterday via FB and had to come back and reread.
August 19, 2011 at 7:14 am
Very excellent insight. Words are so powerful — especially the ones we say silently to ourselves. I am so excited to see all the can’ts you are blowing out of the water (not sure if that pun was intended or not!)
August 19, 2011 at 10:52 am
Negative self talk sucks and I am guilty of it. Love the way you are working hard to change your way of thinking. Added your graphic to my Pinterest too.
August 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Love this. I do karate and my sensei won’t let me use “can’t” in class. When I started I said, “I can’t do sit-ups.” I am still working on doing as many as she wants me to do, but I can certainly do a lot more than I could that first day! I keep training and I can do more and more every time!
August 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm
LOVE these comments. What a difference a word makes! I’ll be using this a lot… and with my kids, too!
August 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm
For me, ‘can’t’ is just that. There are so many things I just ‘can’t’ do. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t allow one the luxury of choice.
I tried to work with a personal trainer at the gym and to follow all her instructions.
Paramedics had to be called when I fell off the treadmill.
The personal trainer didn’t make me fall. She encouraged me, but didn’t listen when I said, “I can’t”
August 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm
There are definitely things that one CAN’T do, no matter what. I can’t read a word or see six inches without my 20/500 glasses. I can’t run a ten minute mile (it’s not a matter of choice at this point). I am so sorry that that trainer did not listen to you or understand what you were really saying! Ack!
I was referring more to myself (and others) who SAY “can’t” but don’t really mean it. Or they use it to fall back on when it’s not true, and it IS truly a matter of choice or preference.
August 21, 2011 at 12:15 am
I love that you are re-orienting your phrases AND making huge strides. You will be ready & we will be cheering you on!
August 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm
Love this look at the power of language on our mindset of possibility. Thank you for so eloquently expressing it. You can, indeed!
August 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm
I found your blog through Medicinal Marzipan. (THANK YOU, MARA! As ever and always!) I love this post. Language doesn’t just help us to communicate; it literally shapes our world. Kudos to you for reminding us of what a difference a few small tweaks to our self-talk can make. You might want to check out Joel Runyon’s Blog of Impossible Things; he recently posted about the word Impossible and altered the word ”yet’ to “I can’t [_________]. (And obviously I need this message since I got it from both you and Joel in the space of a week!!) Thank you for the reminder!
August 23, 2011 at 1:57 am
Thank you, Mara!! and thanks Deborah for stopping by! Come back again. I’ll check out the Impossible blog, I like the sound of it.
August 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm
Ooops . . . Added the word “yet” to alter the “I can’t” phrase; he did NOT alter the word “yet!”
August 24, 2011 at 2:42 am
Can’t to me means i don’t want to do something! I’ve been in that frame of mine for the past 3 weeks, and i need to get out of this funkkkkk. I need a arseee kicking! xo