Stop Saying “I Can” Because “You Don’t”
As a kid, you heard the “I Can” speech a thousand times; how all you had to do was believe in yourself and you would succeed. Many of us to this day refuse to say “I Can’t,” because of the power we believe “I Can” gives us.
But let me ask, how much of what you potentially can do actually gets done? You may find that much of your “I Can” potential somehow never bridges the gap to “I Did” reality.
For many years, this was me. I was a classic underachiever. I would quit projects after project, and even in supposed success I felt no real joy or fulfillment.
If you can relate, then I will share with you a key strategy that helps me put more of my potential to use and find more fulfillment and joy in everything I do. Here’s how:
Put “I Can” Into the Background
Knowing that you can achieve does have some benefits. It’s like cruise control on a car, nice to have but not really necessary. In fact, I rarely contemplate whether I can do something. I just accept that I can and move forward.
But if you do have confidence concerns that hold you up, try this – Then read on about how to Put Potential Into Action:
- Remove justifications: Confidence is not like sweets, you don’t have to justify having it. So the next time you hear yourself reasoning away confidence, glibly ignore it and move forward.
- Build on confidence: If you are confident in one area, use it in another. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t related areas. What does matter is getting in touch with how it feels to be confident. From there, the feeling should help you move to the next step.
- Trigger confidence: When I’m stuck, and confidence is drained, I run to my confidence triggers. These are things that pump me up. It could be exercise, music, loved ones, affirmations, an Al Pacino speech, or whatever floats your boat. All we’re looking for is a quick boost to get to the next step.
- And Yes – Another “I Can” Sermon: If all else fails get a self-help book or some other motivational product. Many of them exclusively focus on the warm and fuzzy feeling of self-confidence.
Whatever your method, remember that confidence often is not enough to get it done. Our only goal in being able to say “I Can” is to get us to the next step where we turn potential into action.
Potential into Action
Now that we are confident enough to move on, our next step is to put ourselves into meaningful and inspired action. To do this, we need only consider one thing and one thing only, our own selfish happiness.
Our happiness is the key to action because everything we do is either to maximize pleasure or reduce pain. So when we find a way to tie our potential to loads of pleasure and/or major pain reduction, we have the carrot and stick to motivate decisive and fulfilling action. **
I was able to do this by getting in the habit of asking myself the simple but effective question – “am I willing to?” Once I started doing this, I found decisive and meaningful action to back my potential.
The “Am I Willing To?” Process
- Ask yourself “Am I willing to?”: The moment you ask yourself “Am I willing to?” you instantly create a space for thoughts about the pleasure and pain associated with your task. Your mental process seeks to balance out action, pleasure, pain, consequence, costs, and everything in between.By asking this simple question, we access our primal need to pursue pleasurable things while at the same time our pragmatic and reasoned side helps to balance the equation. This is emotion and reason working together at its finest. It sounds like B.S., but try it right now.Pause for a second and quiet your mind, then ask yourself “Am I willing to finish this article?” Give it a few seconds to sink in; try not to block any inner dialogue. If the only thing that comes to mind is yes or no, add “because” to the end of that yes or no.“Yes, because I am learning something; no, because I have other things to do.” With practice you will develop a deeper inner dialogue that points you towards YOUR most valuable choice. To maximize the potential of our inner dialogue, follow the remaining steps:
- Focus on pleasure: After you ask yourself “Am I willing to?”, begin to focus on all the benefits that come to mind. This is very important because the more potential pleasure we find, the bigger the carrot we have to chase. This inspires us to act, makes the process enjoyable, and gives us a sense of fulfillment in the end.Wanting pleasure is an essential feature of our psychology and why The Pursuit of Self is all about your happiness above all things. And your happiness and mine are always better served by monster carrots: big ideas and big dreams that give us the motivation to power through supposed obstacles.The point is, find all the reasons doing what you are contemplating adds to your own happiness. Ramp up your pleasure and create biggest, baddest carrot you can, one that would make Bugs Bunny crap his pants. Many times motivation is just that simple: small goals equals small carrots, which lead to low motivation, lackluster results, and worst of all, resentment (because we end up doing it anyway). Who wants that? I digress… **
- Focus on consequences: Reward and pain can be equally motivating, so like the previous step, spend a moment to get in touch with the potential pain associated with not following through. If you have cranked up the pleasure and pain, then you will be able to move decisively even when you feel less than confident. That’s the power of pleasure and pain, it is that compelling.
- Contrast with cost: Now we know our rewards and consequences of pursuing action, the next step is to understand the cost. Costs include things like time, money, resources, etc., anything we have to give up to achieve our goal. Be sure also to consider opportunity costs: these are the alternatives that must be put aside to pursue completion of your goal. For example, to pursue a new opportunity may require you to abandon a previous one.When we review our cost, we also get the added benefit of a mini action plan for success. That’s because to track the costs involved we have to know where and when they arise. This forces us to take a step by step look at what we plan to do. This can be an important step for someone with confidence issues because now they have facts and a vision to use as justification for going forward.
- Make your decision: At this point you should have clear benefits, pain points, a tentative plan, and approximate cost – all the things you need to make an “emotionally pragmatic” decision. Emotional because of the fire and hunger we have created by knowing how much we gain, pragmatic because we know the risk and cost of moving forward. This combination of emotion and reason are the hallmark of highly motivated and successful people.
The simplicity of asking “Am I Willing To?” in no way captures the profound change in your life it can make. It can open you up to the idea of good, better, and best as it relates to the actions that power your happiness. And after all, who is more “willing to” to pursue your happiness than you?
** ( Note: Carrot and stick methods are short-term strategies. A better long-term strategy is to find more intrinsic and self-identity strategies for action)