As a kid, my mom never allowed my siblings and I to use the phrase “I can’t.” She understood those words to be a literal expression of inability. Since she believed anyone was capable of doing anything they were determined to do, she felt such language was inappropriate, at best, and self-deceiving, at worst.
She encouraged us to use phrases like “I can, but I don’t know how” or “I can, but I haven’t taken the time to develop my potential in that area” when people asked us questions about subjects in which we were ignorant or incompetent. Even if those questions were “Can you fly a plane?” , “Do you speak Greek?”, or “Can you slam dunk a basketball?”, we were required to answer by saying “I haven’t dedicated myself to becoming skillful at that.”
Here’s what mom knew: Our lives are reflections of our priorities and our potential has nothing do with what someone says we can or can’t do. What we know, what we achieve, where we are, and how far we will go is determined by what we decide to devote ourselves to.
If there’s something you say you want, you are free to admit that it’s not a top priority. It may be important to you, but not as important as other things you deem necessary. That’s okay. If you aren’t okay with that, then you can choose to make it a top priority and hold yourself accountable to the results you want to produce.
Whatever you do, however, don’t say “I can’t.”
No statement is more self-negating than that.