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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Understanding 'can't' and why it's meaningless

Image from Flickr, by tropical.pete 
You've heard it.  You've most likely said it.  "I can't."  We've all done it.  I know I have.

It's also one of the most meaningless words in the English language.

When you say "can't", 99 times out of 100, what you mean is that on some level, you lack the will to actually do something.  I used to think that one exception to this rule was saying that a person with no legs couldn't walk.  Recent history has shown me otherwise.  Oscar Pistorius, despite his more recent troubles, proved that "can't" is rarely as applicable as people want to pretend.

Again, I'm guilty.  I "can't" drink just plain water.  I just don't like it.  Folks say it has no taste, but I know that whatever that non-taste is, I don't like it.  However, it's not a can't obviously.  I just don't have any inclination to work through this one.  Instead, I drink tea.  Yep, hot tea like my friends on the other side of the Atlantic enjoy.

However, I put artificial sweetener (Splenda) in my tea.  Why?  Because I "can't" stand unsweetened tea.  The reality is that I could probably get used to it, but I just don't have any inclination to do so.  This is despite my general inclination to not consume things that were made in a laboratory.  It's not a real case of I can't.  It's a case of I just don't want to at this point.

In my own defense, I've made a pile of changes in my life as it is.  This is something I hold onto for my own sanity more than anything.  A no calorie sweetener makes the lack of bread and pasta a lot easier to handle.

The overall point still stands.  Rarely does "can't" really mean "can't".  It means either "I don't want to" or it means "I'm not able to just yet".  A recent double amputee may not be able to run sprints like Pistorius did in London, but that doesn't mean they can't.  Not really.  What it means is they currently don't possess the skills.

The trick is recognizing what it is and being honest about what is holding you back.  A lack of desire may be overcome in time.  A lack of skills may also.

Once you know why you "can't", then maybe you can.  What do you think.

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