I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…..

“I can’t.” What a powerful statement. I hear this everywhere, from my clients, my audiences, my friends, my family. I have even been known to use these words myself. But that was before I knew better……

What does “I can’t” mean?  I can’t turn into a watermelon, but is it really true that I can’t be on time?  You see how it sounds when you really HEAR the words? “I can’t” might actually mean “I don’t want to”, but THAT is much harder to admit (“I can’t take you out for dinner on Friday Honey” will be less inclined to garner a bad or violent reaction than “I don’t WANT to take you out for dinner on Friday Honey”….See what I mean?)

In health coaching, we explore the barriers to personal growth, happiness and vitality. Empowerment comes from understanding that we have more control than we believe. “I can’t” makes us feel powerless, like a victim. It is difficult to feel motivation and confidence when you talk to yourself, or about yourself, as if you are a victim. Our words define us and what we can do or be. I will often say to clients or audience members, “how can you say that differently?”…

Recently I was counseling an individual who has a counseling background – so someone well-equipped to understand motivation, confidence and the ability to change. This person is dealing with addiction and is distraught over the fact that they can’t manage their own addiction. He made the statement, “ I simply can’t do it”. So many of us have felt this way about making changes that we know deep down need to be made. Is it true that ‘we can’t’, or is it an excuse?

A powerful bit of understanding for my clients and audiences is the knowledge that we become what we think or believe. A key to changing your life is changing what you believe about yourself. A simple example is changing “I can’t quit drinking” to “I am struggling with alcohol”. Already that opens the door to believing that “struggling” is not as absolute as “can’t” and in fact, offers a shred of hope.

Many of you have heard me say this phrase at conferences, on my radio show (Happy Hour With Sylvia!)  or you’ve seen it in my writing; “If you want your life to change YOU have to change it!” So how do you do that when you’ve told yourself and everyone else that you can’t? The secret behind how to change your life is simple and hard at the same time; change your words change your world!

Don’t set yourself up to fail!

Remember The Little Engine That Could? “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” changes everything! How do you talk to yourself? How do you talk about yourself? How do you allow others to speak about you? So the other day I challenged the individual with the counseling background to look at a different way of saying “I can’t quit”. As long as I say “I can’t” I will always try to be right. “I can’t quit” could become “today I will do ______”.

My client’s new statement to master how to quit smoking became a simple goal, reflected in a simple phrase. Each morning he stated, “today I will smoke 10 cigarettes”. Within a week, he had decided he could move down to 5 per day. So instead of saying “I can’t quit smoking”, isn’t this a better way? I realize that this doesn’t sound very magical, mystical or mysterious but quite frankly human nature is none of those, and yet it’s all of those. Think of a child. What child will grow to reach their potential after being told repeatedly they can’t?

If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right – so why not change your words to change your world? Let’s begin with banning the words “I can’t” from our vocabulary (or at least limiting the use of that phrase) and replacing those words with “I think I can, I think I can, I know I can”?

In my years working with people to make permanent, healthy changes to their lives I have seen this work. I have seen people make life altering improvements in health, habits, relationships and happiness. Many came with the belief “I can’t change my life”, “find a new job” “learn how to stop yelling “ or “how to manage my anger”. Audiences have come to a session believing that stress is inevitable and that they can’t change the stress. Work places with poor moral and unhealthy cultures have worried that there is no way forward. All of these are untrue!  There are ways to find hope and this is my personal and professional commitment to my clients; together we WILL find hope. But be prepared, there is work involved! Are you ready? Do you think you can? If you would like to talk about how I can help you change your life, contact me at for a one-on-one consultation or even a group meeting.


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