Potential? What Potential?
When we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, we’re almost certainly right. When we tell ourselves we can do something, the chances are we will be able to do it or at least get close.
We have become too accepting of the word “cannot”’ or its more colloquial “can’t”. It’s become a catch-all for not trying things that are within our reach (albeit at a stretch), for excusing ourselves from opportunities, for sabotaging our potential. It’s become a simile for “won’t” or “don’t want to”.
I can remember saying to myself, “I can’t dance” and “I can’t sing”, and I often get people saying to me “I’ll never be able to present” or “I can’t tell my boss how unhappy I am”. These things are only true if we imbue them with truth. I can sing and I can dance, in my own unique way!
Of course, there are many things I don’t want to do and it’s my prerogative to decide (in many cases) whether I will do them. For instance, I don’t want to do an Iron Man challenge or go skiing. It’s not that I am physically unable to do these things: I just don’t want to go through the pain and angst of doing them. I don’t always want to brush my teeth before I go to bed after a late night sampling malt whisky with friends. Mostly I am capable of staggering to the bathroom and carrying out the necessary ablutions and mostly I do just that, but sometimes I choose not to. Unless I’m unconscious, I still have the capacity to carry out my dental hygiene routine.
Sometimes we use “Can’t” as an invitation. People say “I can’t” because they want others to encourage them, support them, convince them and make it clear you’ll be there for them. But the longer they keep saying, “I can’t do it”, the longer it will be before they ever do it.
Where learning is concerned, we all have the capacity to stretch ourselves. There is more to know, more to experience, more prove. So to give us the best chance of acquiring the rich fruits of learning and growth, we should be more honest with ourselves, more circumspect with our language, and choose our path more carefully.
Don’t confuse “Won’t” for “Can’t”; if you don’t want to do it, say so. If you want to do it but feel the challenge is too great, consider how you can break the challenge down to more manageable proportions. I can’t eat a 200g bar of chocolate in one mouthful, but I can make a really good fist of it if I take it one square at a time.
It’s less a question of “Can I or Can’t I” and more a question of “Will I or Won’t I?”