There’s No Such Thing as Can’t

This post was originally published on and featured in their recent Sugartone Ebook.

Recently, a well-known motivational speaker was asked in The Irish Examiner newspaper what his pet hate was. His answer was. ‘People who say they can’t. There’s no such thing as can’t.’ I’m sure many people admired his upbeat attitude. I felt alienated by it.

As a writer, I know that human beings are far too rich and complex to be labelled in terms of can and can’t. If you are to have any hope of motivating others, you need to figure out where people are coming from. You need to find out why they feel they can’t and convince them that they can.

Why do people feel they can’t? There are many powerful reasons for it including:

  • A discouraging family environment. Parents, family and friends may have made people feel that they can’t, even though they may not have intended to.
  • Illness or disability. Society often gives people with disabilities the message that they can’t. People may also have latent depression, which saps confidence.
  • Disappointments and setbacks. If people often encounter obstacles to success despite theirbest efforts, they may not have the heart to try again.

If you’re in a position where you need to persuade people to do work for you, you may have little patience for excuses. And that’s as it should be. Figuring out why people can’t doesn’t mean condoning bad behaviour. But if you’re an employer in particular, you literally can’t afford not to figure out why people can’t. Firing people is a lot of hassle, with unfair dismissals legislation and the expense of recruiting and training someone new.

If you’re teaching and one of your students is disruptive, it could be because they feel they can’t. Helping them turn can’t into can will enable them to tap into their potential. Even in a voluntary organisation, valuing people’s efforts and making them feel their skills are of use will help them feel their contribution is of value.

Here are a few simple tactics for turning can’t into can.

  • Find out why people feel they can’t. If people know that you understand where they’re coming from and that you have compassion for them, they’ll open up and it will be easier for you to help them.
  • Show them that they can. Share with them what you think their strengths are. Nobody is immune to a bit of flattery and it gives people confidence.
  • Give them strategies to move forward. If they’re having difficulty completing tasks, give them the resources they need, whether that’s mentoring, help from a trusted friend or colleague or literature to read up on.

It may seem like a lot of hassle, but if you take the time to turn can’t into can, your relationship with the people around you will be far more harmonious.


One thought on “There’s No Such Thing as Can’t

  1. What a great post – one I found particularly useful. While postive thinking has its place, sometimes it is just loading added pressure on ourselves and making us feel like “failures” when we “can’t” do it right. I love this approach – thanks for sharing it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s