Can’t to Can

CantAdmittedly, this topic has been well chronicled in the leadership space. There are wonderful stories of the journey from “can’t” to “can” from people – everything from weight loss, to athletic achievements, to financial success and personal happiness. You would think by now there would be a well-defined methodology for everyone to follow to convert their Can’ts to Cans but there is not. Each person’s history is different as are so many other variables like motivation, support structure, and skills. Even if you manage to successfully take an endeavor from Can’t to Can, then there is the stickiness factor – how long can you live in the new Can world and avoid what many regrettably do which is to regress to the Can’t. Here are some tips on this complex personal tribulation.

Step 1: Make a list of both your own Can’t-to-Can accomplishments as well as those of others that you know of, either directly (eg friend) or indirectly (you have seen/read about it) that struck a chord with you. This is just a list and initially 3-5 should suffice.

Step 2: Brainstorm one-word atrributes of each one of them. What happened that initiated the attempt, during it, and after, that made it stick?

Step 3. Come up with your own 1-2 current Can’ts. Something you just cannot fathom yourself achieving. Perhaps it’s a difficult conversation with your boss, or progressing to a new level at your organization, or a certain skill level or breaking an athletic performance barrier.

Step 4: The last step is to merge Steps 2 & 3. How many of the attributes that you listed in Step 2 are realistically available to you now to integrate in your Can’ts? The more of them, the better. Remember to include an attribute to make your achievement sustainable.

I have used this model personally and with many folks. The reason it works is because it is customized to you based on your own past successes and what you are capable of doing. Note that if I asked you to make one more list of what you are afraid of, what gives you anxiety, that list would be closely aligned with your Can’t list. It should not be surprising that what we fear is what we think we can’t do. Dealing with fear, the most powerful of all emotions, is therefore a significant part of the Can’t-to-Can journey. Fear (cortisol) is neurologically a cognitive disabler, so it can be helpful to go through the exercise above in writing to first prove it to yourself than you can do it. The great news is that the more of these you do, the more Can’t-to-Cans you make, the more confidence you will have in all parts of your life.


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