I Can’t stand “I Can’t”

“But mom – I can’t”

It’s a phrase I’ve started hearing more and more often in my house… And something I think about when it comes up.  What makes us good at something?

Think about those individuals who do things with such excellence that we attribute it to innate talent… Musicians, Athletes, Business Leaders, Dancers, Artists… Often I’ve found that it’s easier to assume that these individuals were born with the talents that we appreciate and in some cases covet… but is that true?

In the early 90’s, there was a study done on musicians that yielded some interesting (to me at least) results.   The study itself is tedious reading, but here’s the gist…

They looked at professional and amateur musicians at the Berlin Music Academy.  All were good or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  As they interviewed and studied the musicians, differences emerged – and here’s the shocker – none were attributed to “natural” talent.

All of the “experts” in the study, had a minimum of 14 years experience, while the amateurs ranged between 5-20 years experience.  The experts began instruction at an average age of 5.8 years of age while the amateurs were slightly older when they began (9.9 years).  The biggest different though, was in the amount of time devoted to practicing their craft.

In an average week, the expert spent 56.75 hours on music related activities…the amateur, only 7.02 hours.

Well, there ya go.  It struck me that we can be good at anything we are passionate about and practice…but to sit back on our laurels and determine that we are not good at something because it doesn’t come easy is where the fault lies.

Someone I have a lot of respect for once said to me “I’m not good at communicating my feelings.”  My youngest told me the other day “I’m not good at swimming.”  My oldest told me this morning “I’m not a good reader.”  A conversation with a dear friend last evening culminated with “But I can’t leave him.”

I respectfully disagree with all of these statements.  What each of these individuals is ACTUALLY saying – IMHO – is that either (a) they are not passionate about the task or (b) they have not practiced the task or (c) All of the above.

Saying “I’m not good at ____________” or “I Can’t _________” is indirectly telling yourself that you are a victim of circumstances in a way… “I can’t do X, Y, or Z and therefore I’m somehow inadequate.”  NOT TRUE.  YOU are amazing.  YOU can do anything you desire.  When we cave to the “I can’ts” of the world, we relinquish our power…our strength.

Instead – empower yourself by identifying what is REALLY going on.  For the oldest, perhaps it is more true to say “I do not enjoy reading.” See how that is a choice?  It’s saying “This is a choice I am making and I’m ok with that.” vs. making an excuse for why you aren’t doing something.

For the youngest, it might be “I don’t practice my swimming enough to be completely comfortable joining the team or competition.”  Again – empowering.  It’s making a choice.  Because from that one statement, you are in the driver’s seat and can say either “I want to improve my swimming so I will practice more.” OR “I like to play in the water but do not enjoy it enough to want to commit more time to it and am ok with that.”

With my dear friend (you know who you are and I KNOW you are reading this) perhaps what is really being said is “I don’t know how to live on my own terms because I never have before.”  but that doesn’t mean you can’t… just means you haven’t practiced it.

In our house, the phrase “I Can’t” has been banished.  And each time it is said – by the kiddos or by myself (because yeah… newsflash, I’m not perfect either) we as a family remind each other to look at what we just said… I ask the boys (or myself) Is that really true?

You may find that the answer is that no… it’s not really true and there is a deeper statement you are really making.

So, My question to you today is this… What “I Can’t” is holding you hostage?

Try to alter the thoughts and you may find that it changes your whole world.



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