13 July 2023
Reading time: 3:45 minutes

I can't...

Do you remember my second newsletter? The one where I wrote about two words which changed my life?

Well, it turns out that they weren't the only words with an immense impact on my life once I swapped them for more empowering alternatives.

Why do words matter?

Well, words have meaning. Sometimes the same word means something different to me than to you. It leads to misunderstanding and can cause all sorts of relationship problems. That's why finding meaning before jumping to conclusions is critical. Trying to understand others is a topic on its own. Maybe an idea for a different newsletter?

But what about ourselves? Do our own words impact us?

Yes. Numerous studies have shown that the way we think and talk has a massive effect not only on mental health but also on the quality of life and our ability to function.

That is worth repeating.

The way we think and talk has a massive effect on our quality of life and our ability to function.

The words used impact our perception of the situation

Sometimes I talk faster than I think.

Did you ever found yourself in such a situation? You say something and immediately realise, "That didn't sound right!" The words you used didn't convey the idea. Or it kinda did but in a way you didn't mean to.

After all, "What's wrong with you?" sounds differently from "What's bothering you?", doesn't it? Both questions acknowledge that there is something amiss, but the first one is focused on the outer reflection of it, while the latter is focused on the internal state.

It turns out, that focusing on the internal state is more powerful not only when talking with others (it builds connection), but also when talking to and about ourselves (it gives agency).

Taking control

My mission is to help people to take control of their own life. A tagline for Tree of Life Quest is "...it's time to be YOU". But it's hard to be yourself when you feel like you have to do something. Or that you can not do something.

I used to say "I can't" a lot. It was my automatic response.

  • I can't come to the party because I have to work
  • I cannot afford to buy that because I don't have enough money
  • I can't apply for that job because I don't have a degree
  • I can't exercise every morning because I don't have a time
Well, it turns out that the way I said it prevented me from doing a lot of things.

Why would you try if you think you can't? Right?

You see, the words "I can't" are finite. They imply, that I cannot do something, usually because of some external limitations. And when you think you can't then you wouldn't. You wouldn't not because you can't, but because you wouldn't even try.

Using "I can't" is disempowering. It robs you of options. You submit to the conditions imposed on you from outside. It increasingly leads to resentment and ultimately to anxiety and depression. When I realised that I started using two other words.

Why do I do it?

Using them gives me an option to decide. It gives me a way to evaluate the problem from different angles. It puts me back in control. And being in control gives me the ability to act and a sense of autonomy which leads to satisfaction.

What words do I use?

  • I shouldn't
  • I won't
I use the "I shouldn't" to explore if there are other options. And I use the "I won't" to convey to myself, that it is me doing the decision based on my values.
(*Plus I add other qualifiers to express my decision clearly.)

How does it work?

When I say
  • I shouldn't come to the party because I have to work
my immediate response is - do I want to go to the party? If yes, can I do the work at another time? Or do I have to work at all?

But suppose that I have no other option than to either work or to go to the party.

If there is no other option, what is more important for me? If I (the emphasis is on I) decide that work is more important, saying "I won't come to the party because I have to work" puts me in control. I am no longer a victim of the situation. I decided.

It might seem as semantics but it's not. Saying "I won't" means that I am not willing to forego the work for a party.

The same goes for other questions.
  • I shouldn't buy that because I don't have enough money
Well, do I want to buy it? If yes, why? How important is it for me? Is there a way I can raise money for it? Maybe I can cancel some subscriptions I don't use and use that money? Or I could sell something on eBay?

Or, upon consideration, I realise, that it's not so important. "I cannot afford to buy that because I don't have enough money" suddenly becomes "I won't buy that because I want other things more."

I am in charge. I decide.

That's my tip of the week. Try it.

Change your "I can't" into "I shouldn't". Analyze the reasons. Find out what you want. Consider your values and examine your options.

What seemed to be ~IMPOSSIBLE~ may transform into ~I'M POSSIBLE~.

And if after consideration you decide not to do it, acknowledge that it is your decision.

"I won't do it. Because I am in control."

Till next week ​

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See you next time.


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