Can’t – Not in Your Vocabulary

Posted: April 15, 2010 at 9:05 am

I remember back in the day, when I competed on an all star cheerleading team. I remember the intense practices and the tough training for all those backtucks & layouts. And I also remember our coach drilling this motto into our heads - "Can't is NOT in your vocabularly!!". Everytime he caught us using "can't" in a sentence, it was outside to the parking lot to run suicides. Or lining up to do so many backtucks and toetouches in a row your body thought it would collapse. I used to hate hearing how we should never say that word.


But you know what? As I have grown, I have realized that it makes a lot of sense. So much energy is in our thoughts it is incredible. Our thoughts can either empower us to do something we never dreamed of...or hinder us and hold us back. It took putting myself through a lot of learning situations to finally get it and try to remove "can't" from my vocabularly.

I used to always define my eating by what I was not allowed to have. I would tell myself "you can't have sugar"..."you can't have too much fat"..."you can't have anything processed at all"..."you can't have red meat"..."you can't can't can't". And you know what happened? I immediately craved anything that was a "can't" food. And then I would give in, feel like a failure, think I was incapable of  reaching whatever goal I was trying to accomplish, give up, and finally end by going overboard and overeating. Sounds like a fun cycle, huh? [Source]

And when I removed any limits from what I was allowed to eat, I naturally began craving healthy stuff and could fit in treats in a healthy way, both physically and emotionally. "Can't" no longer controlled my eating.

But "can't" is not only a four letter word in the dieting world. It can hold us back from many aspirations. As a teacher, we were taught that our classroom rules should always be positive. Instead of saying "Don't be rude to your classmates" it was recommended to use a rule like "Be kind to your classmates" instead. The notion was that by removing the negative connotation, the atmosphere would be more positive and students would be more likely to acknowledge the desired actions.

While I don't know how well that worked with high schoolers, because there will always be that one kid you just want to smack because he/she refuses to follow ANY rule no matter how it is worded,  I do agree with the idea affecting how we approach our own life. Negativity is very debilitating. Will you even begin to pursue a goal if you feel like the outcome is something you can't do? Probably not and if you do, you likely won't go very far before frustration hits. If you believe you can't do something, a self fulfilling prophecy will result. Have you ever heard of self sabotage? If you believe something can't happen, subconsciously you will find a way for it not to happen. It is a lot easier to get thrown off course if you believe the end result will be failure no matter what. Ever have thoughts like the following with similar results?

  • "I can't run" so whenever I try as soon as it starts getting tough I don't push through...I stop.
  • "I can't work my way up to that promotion" so instead of seeking opportunities to show the skills I believe I have, I melt into the background and get overlooked.
  • "I can't make new friends" so I never feel confident enough to strike up a conversation with someone or reach out to an acquaintance.
  • "I can't cook" so I stick to old stand by recipes and don't branch out to try new things. Hmmm, this one sounds familiar for myself, but I am certainly working on it. 😉

How to fix this problem? Instead of thinking of what you "can't" do. Think of what you can.


You can always try. You can always do your best. That doesn't mean you will always succeed or reach a particular goal. But you can live in the satisfaction that you did what you could and that's what matters. You can revel in the progress and achievements you do make, instead of the things you didn't accomplish. You can replace the negative with the positive. And that could very well lead to positive changes happening in your life.

  • Do you believe our thoughts can impact our achievements?
  • How often do you tell yourself you can't do something? What is one thing you think you "can't" do and how can you change it?

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No Comments to “Can’t – Not in Your Vocabulary”
  1. I definitely believe in positive thinking. I think attitude is everything!

  2. I definitely think our thoughts affect our achievments. It’s all about thinking positive!

  3. Morgan says:

    I agree with Jessica. Attitude really is everything!
    Negative thinking leads to negative things. You think “I can’t” then get down on yourself, and it’s a downward spiral

  4. Such a great post. I totally agree that our thoughts can play a huge role in our achievements. We can talk ourselves out of so much, so easily. Why is it that it seems so much easier to talk ourselves down rather than up??? I try really hard to not say “can’t.” However, I know that there are times when I think to myself, “I can’t eat that.” Like you said, kind of makes you want it more right? I am a perfectionist and definitely have a tendency to not shoot for something for fear that I can’t do it right the first time – like running a race and winning the whole darn thing.

  5. Vee says:

    Absolutely! My favourite quote is from Henry Ford: ‘Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right. ‘ So true!

  6. Heather says:

    i totally agree…positive thinking really impacts the way i handle things. if i believe i can, then i do, and even if i “fail” it makes me realize that the failure really wasn’t that big of a deal!

  7. Kelly says:

    What a fabulous post, Tina! I read a post similar yesterday that talked about the difference between can’t and won’t and how most decisions are “won’t” decisions hiding behind the word “can’t”….I love it! Thanks for being so inspiring! 🙂

  8. I definitely think that is true….and I wonder sometimes if I were more positive in terms of my injuries, if I’d be able to get back to running sooner? I think of myself as an optimist, except when it comes to that! I am going to work on shifting my thinking in this area. Thanks for the post and making me realize this!

  9. I love this!! The power of positive thinking is AMAZING!

  10. Lindsey says:

    Great post! I love this!

    I definitely believe in the power of the mind…I believe I have manifested many things with my thoughts

  11. Hallie says:

    This was awesome! I always, always said I couldn’t run until I decided I wanted to try! I did Couch to 5k and worked up to hit a PDR of 7 miles. Now I’m sorta starting over after a running hiatus, but I’m training for a half marathon so I’ve got to get out there! I think setting goals that are realistic, but still a little lofty, help with the “can’t” syndrome. Right now, with my running I am telling myself I “can’t” improve my speed, so I’m really trying to break out of that mindset and push myself a little to see if I CAN speed up a little.

    I really believe in “fake it til you make it” which helps with this mindset too, I think.

  12. Great post! I touched on the diet part a bit in my post today – you definitely need to have a bit of wiggle room to have what you actually WANT.

    I’m a firm believer that attitude is 95% choice, and that attitude further influences your actions. If you think negatively about yourself or your abilities (or someone else’s for that matter)… it rubs off. You will start not only thinking that you “can’t”, but believing it, and therefore not even begin to TRY.

    “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippeans 4:13

  13. feetinmotion says:

    Linked this into my blog post

    very inspirational on positive thinking

  14. feetinmotion says:

    So I get to comment 3 times

  15. feetinmotion says:

    is that correct? haha

  16. feetinmotion says:

    whoops!! wrong post, I’ll recomment in the actual post! hahah sorry girl

  17. […] Need some positive thinking? Go here […]

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