We all know about alcoholics, and there is also
• Shop – “Aholics”
• Rage – “Aholics”
• Work –“Aholics”
• Food –“Aholics”
Well, I’m a “can’t aholic”.
Here is a short list of my “I Can’ts”:
• I can’t sing.
• I can’t dance.
• I can’t clean my room.
• I can’t lose weight.
• I can’t play a musical instrument.
• I can’t forgive Marilyn when she dumped me.
• I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.
• I can’t make that call.
• I can’t finish that project.
• I can’t play hockey.
• I can’t quit playing video games.
• I can’t progress.
• I can’t stand it.
• I can’t get started.
• How about “I can’t make up my mind”?
• I can’t follow directions.
• I can’t make this work.
Perhaps the most frustrating can’t of all is“I can’t change my mind”.
Or another favorite, I can’t let go. How many love songs out there with that theme?
How many “can’ts” do you have on your list?
I have so many “can’ts” on my list, they call me “the King of Can’t.”
I can’t believe I’m 63 years old.
I can’t stand cream of mushroom soup.
I can’t believe you said that.
I can’t believe I said that
“Can’t”sprinkles our language, often with unintended consequences as to how we approach life.
“Can’t” implies an inability to change, or progress, or to grow or to evolve. “Can’t” is a place of stuckness seemingly laid upon us by some outside force. “I can’t make peace with my sister”. It’s like it’s beyond my ability or my power, or my intention. It almost seems like it’s not our fault. We have somehow arranged it so we are victims to “can’t”. Well, it’s true, isn’t it, after all,“I just can’t”.
I grew up in a house of “can’ts”. You can’t have new shoes, we can’t afford that, you can’t go there, no you can’t have ice cream for dinner. You can’t be an astronaut, can’t be a circus trainer, can’t be a hockey player, can’t be a fireman, can’t be a musician. I began to believe that I can’t be successful, can’t be happy.
I grew up in a house of “can’ts”. I fell in love for the first time at 16. It didn’t last and when it was over and I was crying for the love that had been lost, I was told: “you can’t be in love, you’re too young”. Try telling that to a 16-year-old at the demise of his first crush. So I was heartbroken twice, once by the girl and her family moving away, the other by a well-intentioned mother.
So “can’t” became the philosophy of my childhood home. It became easy for me to take “can’t” into my own life when I left home.Can’t go to university, can’t get a good job, can’t even get a better job, can’t get a better car, can’t get a better wife, can’t afford a nice apartment, can’t make friends, the list was pretty long. Wow, the King of Can’t was indeed in full charge of my life.
With so many “can’ts”, you’d think I’d be embarrassed, but I’ve taken that embarrassment and turned it into a kind of pride. It’s the standard joke among my friends “want something done, don’t ask Martin, he can’t do anything”. That’s right, I am so good at “can’ting” that I made a career of it.
I kind of think I am not alone in Camp “Can’t”. I bet there are plenty more can’t-aholics out there.
So, is there something to do for the King of Can’t?
Happily, I can report that I have developed a recovery program. Yes, there is a way out of the “can’t” land.
I have to get a little philosophical on you here.
Have you heard “as a man thinketh, so he is”? This one is in the Bible.
How about “change your thoughts, change your life”? This is from Wayne Dyer.
“Change your thoughts and you change the world”, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
“Change your thinking, change your life”, Descartes, Brian Tracy,and Ernest Holmes.
“Nothing changes until you do”, Socrates.
“The Greatest discovery is that a human being can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their mind”, William James.
You get the drift, change our thinking and we can change the direction of our lives. Is it easy? Apparently not! There are hundreds of books out there with steps and suggestions about how to have a change of thought. Speaking of hundreds of books out there, I’ve read most of them. The King of Can’t was unmoved by all these so-called experts.Apparently, I can’t learn anything either.
So without further ado let me introduce you to the nemesis of “the King of Can’t”, “ta-da”, it’s “the Wizard of Won’t”.
Take all those “can’ts” and substitute “won’t” in place of “can’t”.
King of Can’t says: “I can’t dance”, Wizard of Won’t say: “I won’t dance”. Oh.
King of Can’t says: “I can’t sing”, Wizard of Won’t says: “I won’t sing”. Oh
King of can’t says: “I can’t quit playing video games, Wizard of Won’t says: “I won’t quit playing video games”. Oh.
Are you aware of the subtle change in tone? “Can’t” implies certain forces beyond our control, “won’t” places the blame correctly on ourselves. Oh.
So it’s not such a far place to go, just change our language a little bit from “can’t” to “won’t”.
I can’t forgive Marilyn turns into I won’t forgive Marilyn. I can’t lose weight turns into I won’t lose weight. Oh.
You may say this requires a great deal of willpower to make this shift. Willpower is the fuel that keeps the King of Can’t in charge. There has to be a mutiny, or a coup d’état to unseat the King. And this is shift is willingness. It’s a quiet force always present just below our awareness. This willingness is stronger than willpower but gets less attention, less press, less acknowledgment. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of personal abilities.
All we have to do is to just be willing to change our language, from “can’t” to “won’t”. Stop being powerless and start being powerful. I can’t dance is such a weak statement, I won’t dance is so powerful. Am I willing to see things differently? Am I willing to think things differently? Well of course I am.
Why don’t you try this out for yourself on some of your own “can’ts”. Even the tough ones, I can’t lose weight turns into I won’t lose weight. There’s not a lot of room to negotiate with can’t, but there is some with won’t. And it’s that little bit of room that we’re looking for. That little bit of possibility where there seemed to none. Funny isn’t’ it? We have been helpless, hopeless, stuck and angry and we say to ourselves “it’s not my fault, I just can’t”!
So for the next day or two, play in this new playground, can it be so simple? Yes, it can. Often big change comes from small shifts. And after a lifetime of “I can’t”, we can finally start moving into something else.
So who can usurp the King of Can’t. We must call on the Wizard of Won’t. Remember Merlin, Professor Marvel, Obi Wan Kenobi, the Good Witch Glenda? These were the agents of change for the heroes in their respective stories. They provided the wisdom and guidance to help our heroes get the change they wanted. The Wizard of Won’t is our guide, our champion, our mentor.
His advice is to rethink our lifetime of can’t and take the first small step to change. Here we go, are you ready for change?
Do you have one more “I can’t” in you?
Is asking you to make this small change too much for you?
Some of you won’t do this. You can stay in can’t-land. That’s okay with me, the rest of us get to go to a new and different future.
I have a friend, let’s call him Wilber. As nice and kind a person would be hard to find. He’s tremendously overweight and full of all kinds of I can’ts. We would meet for lunch and we could walk to the restaurant because it was downhill.
On the way back to his apartment he would say “go ahead, I’ll meet you back at my place”. He would take a bus or a cab back to his apartment because it was uphill and he would say “I can’t walk that far”, “I just can’t”. How far are we talking? Maybe 3 blocks, how big a hill? Maybe an incline of 40 feet over 3 city blocks.Would he try? Would hebuildupto 3 blocks by doing 1 block this week and 2 the next week? No. It was heartbreaking to watch him believe in his “I can’tism”.
So let’s get back to us. The change from “can’t” to “won’t”. It seems so small, so insignificant. But it isn’t. It is the first step of a new outlook on life. It is the first “ah ha” in a transformed life. Skipping this step keeps us believing in powers beyond our control, that there is something “out there” keeping us “stuck in here”.
So bring on the Wizard, live with the idea the Wizard is promoting. Every time you think of “can’t”, let the Wizard’s advice of “won’t” start coming into your thinking and language. Eventually, you will begin to see the wisdom of the Wizard.
Here is the next character in our “can’t” recovery. Let’s meet the President of “pickone”. Yes, that’s right, pick any of your “can’ts”. Go ahead, any of them, pick one though and do something about it. Not tomorrow, not next week, sometime before noon tomorrow pick one of your “can’ts” and start the process of getting to “this won’t take long did it”.
“Can’t” is a roadblock, “won’t” is a detour, “pick one” is the road to recovery. Suddenly we have a chance. Let’s start with something easy, “I can’t decide which can’t to start with”. Write out your list of “can’ts” pick your favorite number and count down your list. There it is;“I can’t make that call”. Who am I putting off calling? Well, my least favorite sister of course. Make the call! Suddenly I have gone from “can’t make the call” to won’t make the call, to “that didn’t take long did it”?
The Prime Minister of Praise.
So often we don’t acknowledge our efforts. We criticize ourselves, and to avoid criticism so we decide it’s better to not even start. So we wind up with another “I can’t”.
We often beat ourselves up, when was the last time you congratulated yourself for starting something new? Think about it, not the mundane tasks that do get done, but starting a new routine, a new thought or new action. Even thinking about thinking about it is a great start. It’s almost like noticing what we are noticing, and then is this what I want to notice?
I have gotten off the dirt track of can’t and am now on the highway of possible. The little voice of “I can’t” has been replaced by a wiser voice of “why not” ?
Can I sing? Yes, I can, I do so more and more now.
Can I dance? Yes, I can.
Can I forgive Marilyn? Yes, I can, yes I did.
Can I lose weight? Happy to report to the weight loss is proceeding nicely. I pat myself on the back almost everyday.
Praise is an undervalued commodity. Parental praise is wonderful, self-praise is essential. So, give yourselves a pat on the back for the willingness to maybe, just maybe look at things a little differently.
May all your “can’ts” be transformed into “this wasn’t as hard as I thought”.
About the Author :
Martin is 63 years old and has been retired for 8 years after 36 years of progressively increasing responsibility at Canada Post, most of the time in Vancouver. While in Vancouver, he earned a Counseling Certificate at Vancouver Community College, studied to become a minister, earned a Competent Toastmaster designation. He volunteered his time with Big Brothers and 14 years at Canuck Place.Since moving to Parksville in 2010, Martin has become an Animal Chaplain (yes there is such a thing), and has continued his public speaking abilities with Advanced Toastmasters. He currently volunteers with Special Olympics as softball coach and public speaking coach. He also coaches public speaking skills with the Air/Sea cadets.