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Author: Elyse, PMP, CPHIMS
April 24, 2007

The amount of negativity that is expressed in this phrase when constantly uttered is amazing to me. I’ve seen individuals utter this phrase whenever asked to do something new. It is an avoidance to me and a depressing validation to themselves. Individuals constantly expressing “I can’t” become tagged and labeled with a negative attitude.

To relate a story, I know of a bright, passionate employee. She can learn anything she focuses upon. However, after working for several decades, that which is new in information technology is threatening to her. As a techie, she vigorously avoids any assignment that is out of her comfort area. She now has herself in a cycle. It is a cycle of negativity. When a new challenge occurs, the first words and predominate thought is I can’t. It is self-full filling, and becomes I can’t. I can’t because of this issue, or this reason. Eventually the opportunity goes elsewhere only for her to take refuge in the comfort zone. Eventually the comfort zone will go away or be retired. As will this position, she fulfills. “I can’t” has basically eclipsed her creativity, innovation and eventually career.

So a word to the wise, think a little and check yourself. “I can’t” shouldn’t always be the first response. If it is, there is a problem within yourself, which needs to be resolved.

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2 Comments to “Let’s talk about the phrase “I can’t””

I got my first web programming job by telling my boss an idea for a web application.

When asked if I knew how to do it, I replied "No, but I am sure that I can figure it out."

They gave me access to the server and I learned ColdFusion. I have been doing it ever since.

My 4th grade history teacher taught me well. She always said "Success comes in cans". It usually takes people a minute to get it (as I think it makes you conjure up a tin can), but it sticks with you.

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