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Do You Have a Can-Do Mindset?


Decades ago, I heard the Henry Ford quote “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.” It’s true because our thoughts propel our actions, that is, what we think and tell ourselves is exactly what we do. Not a week goes by without a client insisting they can’t do something: get to work on time, say no to their children, sit with feelings, attend AA meetings, etc. And each time I hear them say “I can’t,” I know they won’t, no matter how much they yearn to change.

For example, Portia tells me she can’t stop fuming at her husband who has a very different temperament than she does. She’s Type A and he marches to his own inner drum, getting things done when he feels like it. Every session, she comes in and complains she “simply cannot accept his scattered behavior.” How could repeating these words over and over to herself possibly help her change? It obviously can’t.

Joshua tells me he tosses and turns in bed most nights thinking he’ll never become what he calls a “good” sleeper. His lament: “I can’t sleep.” Each time he says it, he’s programming his brain to believe he won’t sleep well. How far is that going to get him? Can you see how he’s his worst enemy in the sleep department?

Consider what you believe you can’t do. My problem is saying, “I can’t stand this” when I’m under extreme stress. Well, often not only do I have good reason to stand it but I prove I can because I generally do. So, when I go to say the words, I stop and remind myself that my thought is simply a reaction to feeling frustrated or upset and that I can bear whatever’s happening. That’s called taking “can-do” corrective action.

Listen to yourself closely and you’ll likely come up with situations in which you tell yourself you can’t. I bet you’re so used to saying it that you don’t even realize these two words buzz through your head regularly. I’m not saying each time you tell yourself you “can” do something, it will come to be. However, I can promise if you tell yourself you “can’t,” it won’t. “Can” opens the door to the possible, whereas “can’t” slams it shut.

A few other things to ponder. Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? That is, do you look at others who’re doing what you want to do and believe you can or can’t learn to be like them? Think about what your parents said to themselves. Were they “can-do” role models who cleared barriers and showed persistence or did they act like victims and give up easily? Check out my books Words to Eat By and Words to Eat By to steer your thoughts and words in an positive, “can-do” direction.