It’s popular now to attack “can’t” as a psychological obstacle to achievement.There’s nothing you “can’t” do. Never say “can’t.” The word “can’t” just isn’t in your vocabulary. If you believe you “can’t,” you’re right. Well, sure, when it comes to stretching your potential beyond your comfort zone, yes, you have to be able to envision yourself actually doing something to summon the drive and courage to achieve it. While there are things that are physically or logistically impossible, the never say “can’t” mantra is meant to break down the psychological barriers that block your path. The problem is, so many people have caught on to how it’s not cool to say you “can’t” that a new vocabulary saboteur is afoot–or more precisely, is a “but.”
“But” is likely the most dreaded, hated, heartbreaking word in the English language, no matter what age you are. Who hasn’t heard “but” without cringing, knowing that what follows will not be good. I would let you stay out late, but…. I’d let you borrow my car, but…. I’d give you the raise, but… I’d give you visitation with your kids, but…. I’d let you move in, but…. Or worst scenario of all, I love you, but…. To hear the word “but” is to be diverted against your will off the path you hoped to travel, taunted by the suggestion that you might have gotten what you wanted, “but,” oh, well, you don’t get it. When it’s said to you, “but” is a detour rationalizing why you can’t have what you want. You’re still determined to get to your destination, “but” this part of the road is off limits to you. Here, it’s not the ultimate destination that needs to change, just the route you can take to get there.
On the other hand, when you’re the one using the word, “but” isn’t a detour so much as an exit. At one time or another, you’ve used “but” to get out of doing something you didn’t really want to do, were afraid to do, or didn’t have enough confidence you could do. It can be the go-to escape hatch to avoid blame or responsibility for ditching something you don’t want to take on. I would do this thing that I’m telling you I really want to do, but… Or, I would give you what I know you really want, but… What you’re trying to say is that, sure, you’re a “can do” type of person, you can do a certain thing you claim you want to do, “but” there’s some reason you don’t, or won’t, or shouldn’t. This way, you can try to convince yourself and others that it’s not your lack of will that’s the problem. It’s that you’re cursed in some way, blocked by something beyond your control. You’d do it, you want to do it, you can do it, but.… Instead of being cursed, you’re creating a cursed cover story as an explanation for why it’s out of your control.
It’s when you’re the one saying “but” that you need to engage in some serious self-reflection. When you say “but,” are you avoiding something and blaming something or someone else? Have you been traveling along and suddenly you see in the stretch ahead some pretty scary road conditions, spiritual rocky terrain, emotional flooding, crumbling confidence, whatever, and now you realize you don’t want to take it on? Is fear, insecurity, doubt, negative past experiences, resentment, or some other adverse emotion causing you to swerve down a different, safer, easier road called “but”?
When you’re the one saying “but,” cutting out onto a new road is an exit, not a detour, because it’s not meant to bring you back to your original destination. It’s meant to avoid that destination permanently. Now, if the path you’re on is something you’re being pushed along by others, and you don’t want to continue, yet don’t want to offend anyone or be seen as weak, ungrateful, or uncool, “but” is a safe excuse to exit out to the road you really want to travel without anyone losing face. “But,” if you’re using it to give up on a goal without giving it your best effort, are you doing yourself and others a service, or just copping out?
If you really want to reach a goal, “but” you’re losing confidence and want to quit, “but” nothing! Using “but” to fall back on a cursed cover story is not an exit; it’s a dead end that can only undermine you’re potential.