“I Can’t” Leads to Despondency, “How Can I” Leads to Possibilities


Every single day, whether we fully comprehend its potential or not, life offers us a number of options.

Some decisions are routine, other opportunities are significant. But we encounter them every day.

Each carries with it the potential to shape our future. As we navigate these choices, there’s a phrase that, unfortunately, slips out all too often: “I can’t.”

Think about how often this phrase echoes in our thoughts and conversations.

“I can’t lose weight.” “I can’t declutter my home.” “I can’t exercise regularly.”

“I can’t handle this job.” “I can’t find time for myself.” “I can’t get out of debt.”

And we also utter this phrase on matters that weigh deeply on our hearts:

“I can’t forgive,” “I can’t rebuild this relationship.” “I can’t move past this pain.”

But here’s the problem, every time we use the phrase “I can’t,” we make the desired change in our lives almost impossible to actually achieve!

Every time we say, or even think, the phrase, “I can’t”, we’re not merely expressing the weight of the challenge (and opportunity) in front of us, we’re essentially closing the door on it becoming a future reality.

What if, rather than saying “I can’t”, we started framing our thoughts and asking, “How can I?” instead.

This isn’t just a play on words. It’s a fundamental shift in our mindset toward life change and opportunity!

“I can’t” leads to despondency. “How can I?” leads to opportunity.

“How can I?” moves us from feeling defeated and stuck to a place of hope and exploration.

It acknowledges the change is difficult, but the question sparks a curiosity within us to find the potential paths available to make it a reality.

Take, for instance, the goal of eating healthier. “I just can’t eat healthy, I like sweets too much” immediately closes the door to life change. On the other hand, “How can I eat more healthy?” opens up a world of opportunity. Even if we keep some sweets in our diet, the question immediately opens ourselves up to small changes that we can make in our daily lives that move us closer to that ideal.

Consider the dream of decluttering your home. “I can’t declutter, I am too sentimental” stops us in our tracks. “How can I declutter—even though I am a sentimental person,” on the other hand, immediately crafts a Google search that probably results in 20 different ways for a sentimental person to begin decluttering.

But more than that, what’s truly wonderful about “How can I?” is its inherent honesty.

It doesn’t mean we automatically know the solution to the problem. Just the opposite, it immediately admits we have no idea how to solve the problem! It expresses a desire to make it happen and the willingness, humility, and resolve to find a solution. It sets in motion the wheels of change, encouraging us to find resources, ask others, and draw strength from those who have gone before.

And the change in phrasing offers potential in even the weightiest of changes we desire in our lives.

“I can’t forgive her, not after what she did,” closes the book on forgiveness. “How can I forgive her—even after what she did to me,” on the other hand, opens to the first page of how to relieve the weight of carrying such hurt for so long.

Life presents obstacles both large and small. While it’s human nature to feel overwhelmed or defeated at times, these moments don’t have to define our entire journey.

Problems can be overcome. Life change, in both big and small ways, can be experienced.

A simple shift from thinking “I can’t” to thinking “How can I?” turns obstacles into opportunities, providing a fresh lens through which we view life’s challenges.

So, if there’s a change, an improvement, or a dream you’ve given up on as no longer being possible, no matter how big or intimidating it might be, ask yourself today: “How can I make this a reality?”

You might be surprised who you become.

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