I’m very fortunate in that, growing up, I had very few people ever tell me I “couldn’t” do something, and so by and large I didn’t ever tell myself that I “can’t” do something. There have been, however, two notable exceptions.
I was told from a fairly young age, “you can’t do computers,” because I wasn’t terribly good (or interested in) math. That’s a huge part of why I went to vocational education for electronics repair, instead of to college, and a massive part of why I got a job as an aircraft mechanic apprentice out of high school.
That “can’t” exercised a lot of power over me for a long time. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that I got a job as a help desk technician and AS/400 operator, and even that only happened because some of the senior mechanics I worked with were appalled, after speaking to me, that I wasn’t working in computers. “What are you doing in this place?” they asked, making me wonder the same thing.
The second was a “can’t” I told myself. Pretty much forever, I was sure that I “can’t” do sports. In high school gym class, I went to almost unprecedented lengths to get out of class. I knew that hitting a gym “can’t” do any good for me, and so I never did. Sure, when I got older I hired a trainer for a few sessions, and that did some good – but I still knew I “can’t” ever really do much.
But when Chris was injured in 2011 and had to start seriously working out in 2012 just to stay healthy, we decided to seriously hit the gym together. And another “can’t” was dispelled, because after four years of that I’ve never felt stronger, healthier, or better about myself. I was careful to set modest goals for my progress, and I blew ’em all away.
Can’t is a terrible, powerful, almost evil word when it’s applied to a human being. Whether you’re telling it to yourself, or hearing it from someone else, it’s a lie. You can. And know that, if you are convinced you can’t, then it’s really because you won’t. And “won’t” is fine, so long as you acknowledge the choice you’re making for yourself.
But it’s never “can’t.”
So what is it you’ve been telling yourself you “can’t” do? Learn a new technology? Find a job or career you really love? Take that trip you’ve dreamed of? Stop telling yourself “can’t,” and don’t let anyone else tell you, either. It’s either a won’t or, more hopefully, a will.