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Changing your question: Transitioning from “Can I?” to “How can I?”

Stop asking “Can I?” and start asking “How can I?”

The power of one word can change an entire mindset- an entire life, really. The dictionary would define the word “how” like this: “in what way or manner; by what means.” The result is that instead of asking yourself if you can accomplish something, you can ask yourself, “In what way and by what means can I accomplish this? How can I accomplish this?”

“Can I?” leaves room for the answer to be no.

“How can I?” welcomes a challenge and creates a plan, with the answer being “Yes, I can.”

On our Leadershift call this week, Mike asked the students how their capacity was limited. The over-arching response was that self, or self-doubt, was the biggest limitation towards one’s capacity. Mike shared that self-limiting statements always work, and I agree with this. I’m currently working on a book right now, but if I kept telling myself that I was never going to finish the book, that I didn’t have what it takes to write that many words, or that I was never going to get published, then I would be determining my future. I would be ensuring that I was right, and I wouldn’t finish my book. Come to think of it, some of these self-limiting statements have echoed through my mind over the past months, and perhaps that’s why I’m not as far along in the writing process as I would like to be.

If you tell yourself you can’t, then you can’t. You have to believe in yourself, and you have to be willing to put in the effort even when victory seems far off or not even within view. Price Pritchett, author of You2, wrote the following:

Your skepticism, which you presume is based on rational thinking and objective assessment, factual data about yourself, is rooted in mental junk. Your doubts are not the product of accurate thinking but habitual thinking. Years ago, you accepted flawed conclusions as correct, began to live your life as if those warped ideas about your individual potential were true, and you ceased the bold, experimenting living breakthrough behaviors as a child.

Pritchett’s statement that doubts are the product of habitual thinking opposed to accurate thinking really sparked my interest. Unfortunately, I would probably say that I doubt myself quite a lot. There is a sense of unhealthy comfort that comes from telling myself that I can’t do it, so there is no point trying. If I don’t leave room for failure, then I’m “fine.” I don’t stop often enough to challenge the doubts though. I don’t question the accuracy of them. We claim habitual thinking as truth because that’s what we know. We don’t question it because habitual thinking provides a sense of false security.

What are some of the doubts that occupy your mind? Maybe we share some of the same.

  • I can’t actually turn my ideas into actions.

  • My passions could never truly become my reality.

  • I’m not good enough for this.

  • I’m going to screw up.

  • It will be too hard for me.

These doubts are colored in negativity and inaccuracy. As we discussed capacity and potential this past week, one of our students made a profound statement.

“Your potential is not written yet.”

How can we hold onto those doubts as truth when our potential hasn’t been written? Why do we let those intrusive thoughts and beliefs stop us from becoming all that we were created to be? This brings us back to our introduction. Stop thinking “Can I?” and start thinking “How can I?” As stated above, this requires an action plan.

The first step is adding the word “how” to your question. This requires a mental transition, which is a part of growth. Growth is essential in conquering self-doubt. This looks like actively taking both mental and physical steps to overcome the self-limitations you set for yourself. When Mike discussed capacity, he said, “Expanding your mind starts with thinking, but must end with action. To expand your capacity is to start with your mind.” His formula for growth is Knowledge + Actions. Once you challenge your doubts with the truth and begin the rewiring process of believing what is actually true of yourself, then you begin putting rubber to the road. That is growth in action.

So, we determined the first step was adding the word “how.” The next step is determining by what means you will accomplish the task at hand. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. If I knew I could not fail, what would I attempt?

  2. If I had no limitations, what would I like to do?

  3. If finances were not an issue, what would I be doing with my life?

    • Ask how I can do that?

    • What must I do to make this happen?

    • And what will I have to trade to make this transition?

These are big questions with no wrong answers. When you allow yourself to dream with no self-limitations, you will find inspiration you didn’t know existed. Then you can sit down and map out your objectives, your strengths, and your weaknesses, and find someone to walk along side you as you navigate a task with fresh perspective. You will limit yourself more than anyone else will limit you. You have to stop only doing what is familiar, and begin doing those things you could and should do! When you begin believing in yourself more, the tasks ahead of you won’t seem so impossible. When you have a cheerleader and mentor walking with you through it, you’ll become even more confident in your ability.

But even if you add the “how” to your “can I?” questions, you may still get stumped. This is because there isn’t just one door to walk through. There isn’t just one right away to accomplish a task and if you can’t figure that out then you’ve failed. Stop looking for that one door and begin to look for all the different doors “how” can help you walk through. If one door ends up being a dud, that doesn’t make you a failure, it just means the path is yet to be discovered. As Mike shared in Leadershift, “Success is a result of continued action, filled with continual adjustments.” You won’t get it perfect the first time and that is okay.

Have you thought of “can I?” questions that you can add our three-letter word to? Watch your entire perspective change as you eliminate the opportunity to say “I can’t.”

So here’s to growth. Our growth.

Amy Davidson

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