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Is “I Can’t” Holding You Back?

By Rebecca Chandler

By Rebecca Chandler (and her mom)

Are there things that you'd like to do, but tell yourself you can't? Is it because you are physically unable to accomplish the task – as in "I can't run fast enough to break the sound barrier?" Or is it because you are afraid? As in "I could sky dive, but I'm afraid my parachute won't open? Or is it because you are not willing to take the steps necessary to reach the goal? As in – "I'd love to play the guitar, but don't want to take lessons or practice?"

There is a motivational tipping point that moves us beyond our limitations to make the goal we wish to achieve possible and attainable. You may not be able to run fast enough to break the sound barrier, but there are those who have built vehicles that can. Many have overcome their fears and sky dived and others have taken up the guitar and learned to play. All did so once the desire outweighed the obstacle.

In business, we face the same challenges. We don't do things because we think them impossible, because we are afraid, or because we're not willing to put in the effort.

My mother was entirely averse to allowing her children to quit. If you said, "I can't," she accepted that as a personal challenge. "What do you mean? You can't? 'Can't' never could." Now, I did grow up in south Arkansas and we take some creative license with our grammar, but my mother was using "can't" as a noun - saying that, by allowing the excuse of "I can't," you were giving yourself permission not to try and to give up. And neither of those were options she'd allow. And - if it didn't work one way, find another.

Do you give yourself the "I can't" excuse?

"I can't get more listings."

"I can't make more sales."

"I can't get my home sellers to be reasonable on pricing . . . "

Whatever your "I can't" is, take a new look at it. Why not? Is it because it is physically impossible in the way you've viewed it? Then find another way. Look at the problem upside down and sideways. Start with the end result and work the steps backward to achieve. Talk it over with an associate – or with someone completely outside your field. Putting some creative thinking behind a problem may find a new solution.

Is it because you are afraid? Write down the worst possible outcome and how you could recover from that. Then, write down the best possible outcome and the benefits. Weigh each. Are the benefits worth conquering your fears? Are the fears really that insurmountable?

Is it because you are not willing to take the steps to achieve the goal? Why not? Drill down on the real reasons. Then, write down the steps you'd need to take to achieve your goal – very specifically. Examine them. How much time would each take? Could you schedule them? Could you outsource them? Make a plan and then the hardest part is to begin the plan, but once you've begun, the steps are rarely as intolerable as we've imagined.

I have a friend who recently started a new exercise program. She joined a group and they all agreed to exercise for 30 minutes a day, every day, for 10 days in a row. That seems like a very achievable and relatively painless goal. She made the commitment to the group and each was accountable to the others. What she found was that she rarely only exercised for 30 minutes. She'd begin and then find that it wasn't as bad as she had imagined and 30 minutes turned into 45 minutes or an hour and she began looking forward to her exercise routine and reporting her success back to a supportive and enthusiastic group. Her perception of the difficulty of the task based in the future was much more negative than the present and much more pleasurable in reflection. In other words, she dreaded it, found it wasn't as bad as she had imagined, and then found real joy in her accomplishments.

So, the next time you say, "I can't," listen to my mother. "'Can't' never could.

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