I can't

I have asthma. It's a chronic condition where my lung capacity can sometimes drop off and it becomes difficult to breathe. It's a mild case and I've fortunately never ended up in the hospital like other folks I know. This is partly due to the fact that with the help of doctors, I'm managing it fairly well. It hasn't stopped me, in my adult life, from doing all the things I love to do, including fitness.

But earlier in life, I learned that asthma had the ability to very quickly prevent me from exerting myself. The agony of being unable to breathe freely weighed more heavily than the desire to do certain things, and I learned that it was easier to say "I can't."

Let's go for a run. "I can't."

And soon, "I can't" became a convenient excuse.

"I can't..."

Hearing those words calls to mind a petulant child, refusing to do something...

"I can't..."

These words have the power to do harm on a monumental scale. So much so, that in my opinion, they don't belong in the vocabulary of successful or aspiring-to-be-successful individuals.

"I can't..."

By their very nature, often these words do nothing more than perpetuate a lie and that's where they do their damage.

When was the last time you said, "I can't"? What were you doing? "I can't stay on my diet"; "I can't lift that weight"; "I can't run that distance"; "I can't do THAT"...

"Can't" by it's very definition means incapable of doing something.

"Incapable" in its simplest form means lacking the capacity.

So whenever we say "I can't", what we're really saying is that we lack the capacity within us.

But the reality is that we're all human beings. Barring specific physical/mental ailments that may create very specific limitations, our capacity is very similar. If one person can climb a ladder, others should be able to climb the ladder; if one person can lift a weight, others should be able to lift the weight; if one person can solve a crossword puzzle, others should be able to do it as well. Our human bodies have certain capacities and the reality is that we're all more similar than different.

If our capacities are essentially similar, the big differences come in the way that we use those capacities. If I know I want to accomplish a certain task, I will apply my resources and work towards that task; through practice, I get better at the task and stronger in whatever skills are necessary for the task. On the other hand, if I believe the task is impossible, I will not bother and may even unconsciously sabotage myself. And the longer I don't do it, the less skilled I get and whatever capacity I had atrophies: if you don't use it, you lose it!

By saying "I can't", we take the responsibility and power out of our hands. "I don't have the capacity to do this, so why bother?" And in that instant, a world of damage has taken place. You've given yourself permission to be complacent and to not try. You've placed a limitation on yourself that is most likely totally artificial.

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. - Michael Jordan

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki

I've seen this firsthand every time I've tried to train someone how to do certain weight-lifting moves correctly. It's not that their bodies lack the capacity to do the movements because the truth is that anyone can do it. It's that they've never been coached how to harness their power to move the weight properly. Because of that, they've convinced themselves that they were incapable, that they would never be able, or perhaps even became scared of the task itself. It's a matter of overcoming that fear of the unknown and in the case of weight-lifting, allowing the body to move the way it instinctively and naturally can.

It's not just limited to physical endeavors. We do this to ourselves everywhere: "I can't remember names", "I can't have a healthy relationship", "I can't deal with technology", "I can't..." Actually, yes you can; you've just decided not to...

"I can't" holds us back. It prevents us from doing the things that we're capable of doing. I learned a while ago that "I can't" was actually holding me back more than my asthma was. So I've made a concerted effort to eliminate "I can't" from my vocabulary.

In my experience, successful people don't use "I can't." Doing so relinquishes power. Instead, they make conscious decisions and retain that power. They'll say "I don't want to" or "I won't". It's not that they're incapable; it's that they choose not to. And this gives them the freedom to try and either fail or succeed.

The next time you're about to use that four-letter word, ask yourself if you're really incapable or if you're just scared to try. Change your vocabulary and in doing so, change your mindset.

Let me know how you're finding your unsteady state! Leave a comment or tweet me (@ultrasmoov) using #unsteadystate.