The difference between ‘I can’t…‘ and ‘How can I…‘.
We’ll explore this in more detail and I’ll give you three different approaches to tackling this particular habit.
This will get us thinking a little more positively about how we go about things in our everyday lives (because dealing with Limiting Beliefs is pretty powerful stuff but also pretty easy to start making progress on once we recognise this is what we’re doing).
A Quick Story/Example
Yesterday I had a chat with my daughter about her maths homework.
Already this is a major achievement – my daughter is 14 (going on 30) and geting any time with her at all is difficult at the best of times, let alone time to discuss her schoolwork.
She told me that she was doing pretty well but that she ‘couldn’t do as well as she should because she’d been placed in 2nd set’.
We’d previously had conversations about this, the fact that her teacher had not put her in top set when he should have, some unfair treatment etc etc.
What we eventually agreed is that the situation with her set placement wouldn’t change, nor would her teacher but she could only address what was in front of her and that she definitely could do as well as she should, particularly in a subject such as maths. The only possible concession (from my side) is that maybe that may be a little harder than it could be.
I told my daughter that I could help her and if there were any barriers (such as her set placement or any problems with any of her teachers) that we could overcome these. There are after all plenty of resources online – we’ve used something called ‘Mymaths‘ in the past and my previous article about The Khan Academy is another example of a great online resource (and there are others).
In short, she should replace ‘I can’t…‘ with ‘How can I…‘ and I was going to help her to do that.
We have actually done this before and once on top of the particular problem, she felt much more confident, almost world-beating and went from being anxious to being enthusiastic about the subject. My current challenge is that she is less accepting of me helping her with such a transformation at the age of 14 than she was last time we did this when she was 10.
That’s actually also ideal because it’s much better if this comes from herself and she does as much as possible on her own.
So what does she need to do to turn the ‘I can’t…‘ into ‘How can I…‘
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Glass Half Empty To Glass Half Full
If ever you find yourself saying ‘I can’t…’ (do something), then there is something you can do about it.
The fact is that our thoughts shape our reality and when we tell ourselves ‘I can’t…’, when we believe that we can’t do something, according to whatever justificaion we have given ourselves, then we effectively give in to that idea. We have made an excuse for ourselves or let ourselves off the hook.
Of course we don’t see it as an excuse as belief is a powerful thing. As we have justified this to ourselves, we see it more as a reason and therefore also believe it needs no further thought – no further effort.
So our Limiting Self Belief is either consciously or (perhaps more dangerously) sub-consciously letting us off the hook.
So the biggest hurdle, perhaps is identifying these Limiting Beliefs, and then we can do something about it.
Once we have gotten over that initial hurdle of identifying the Limiting Belief, the rest is actually very straight-forward. We need to turn that Limiting Self Belief (I can’t) into a positive self belief (I can or How can I) – this may need a bit of research in order to find tools or resources to help you get over this particular hurdle but when we look at it logically, it becomes pretty obvious that ‘I can’t…’ is incorrect.
For more details of how to turn Limiting Self Belief into Positive Self Belief, read the following article:
which has a very simple exercise you should follow.
Dealing With Self-Doubt
Another way of looking at this is dealing with the Limiting Belief as Self-Doubt.
Self-doubt is a mental state we can get into.
It may not be concerning a long held belief (which the exercise highlighted above is a very good tool to deal with) but could be a temporary sate of mind brought about by stress or anxiety.
Whilst you could still use the exercise above in this situation, another way of looking at it is by provoking a more immediate shift in your mental state.
I already mentioned above (and have covered this often in previous articles) that our thoughts shape our reality.
It is also very true that we can only occupy one mental ‘space’ at any given time.
When we are very stressed about something, this can be very hard to overcome as, like elastic, our mental state will keep on snapping back to the stress that overrides all other thought. However, it is possible to replace that stress, or the thought or thoughts that cause it, with something else and in doing so, calm ourselves significantly because our minds can only really be in one place at one time.
So, if we are successful with replacing that ‘stressful’ place with a happier one, we, as a result will be less stressed.
To read more about this concept, take a look at the following article:
be careful to read the entire article as it tells you what to do to deal with self-doubt, but it also explains how to avoid over-using or mis-using this concept as with a lot of these tools and concepts we also have to be honest with ourselves and careful not to replace one set of thoughts or habits with others which are not what we really should be thinking/doing/addressing.
i.e. the mind is a powerful tool and it;s easy to convince ourselves of anything. With the right tools and techniques, and a bit of self-discipline, these things can be addressed – just don’t forget the self-discipline part!!
The Power of Questions
On that last point and concerning the initial part of this article which asks you to replace ‘I can’t…’ (a closed statement) with ‘How can I…’ (an open question), I want you to briefly consider what happens when we ask a question.
When we ask a question, we engage and empower our sub-conscious which helps us to go off looking for answers. It is our nature to learn and to explore, to research and grow. Limiting Beliefs constrain this nature which is not at all healthy. Opening our minds to the possibilities in front of us, trusting that if we don’t know something that doesn’t mean we can’t know or we’ll never know and having the courage to challenge ourselves when we find ourselves closing doors and saying ‘I can’t…’ (when we have Limiting Beliefs) is a very powerful and enlightening thing.
On the very simple subject of the power of questions, you can read this article:
you may find this article interesting because it also touches on some of the dangers of too much self-help and positivity – i.e. it is all about balance and being honest with yourself (if you want to get the very best results).
Limiting Beliefs are something that we all have from time to time and often they come and go in our daily lives without us really realising it, having little other impact than perhaps a temporary dip in confidence or a decision not to do or say something that has little impact to us in any noticeable way.
There are also crippling Limiting Beliefs.
The process for dealing with any Limiting Beliefs is he same. They need to be identified first and foremost and then dealt with, i.e. challenged. This can be difficult, painful and highly emotional depending upon the limiting belief in question and for huge life changes, coming to terms with deeply-held beliefs may just not be possible on your own. In some cases professional help may be needed.
That being said, if you do get as far as identifying a Limiting Belief you hold, just knowing that your thoughts shape your reality and that by changing that limiting belief into something else you can turn the ‘I can’t…’ into ‘I can…’ is pretty empowering in itself.