The sound of a baby crying is an indicator that something is wrong. The young one is hungry, wet, cold or otherwise uncomfortable. Many a new mother will normally jump to attention and rush to attend to the baby.
This is, however not the case at birth when the cry of a newborn brings with it a feeling of accomplishment and immense joy. The baby struggles to take its first breathe on its own in a brightly lit, noisy, strange unknown place outside of the comfort of the womb for the first time.
It is uncomfortable but it must fight to survive. The cry is usually a welcome sign of yet another fighter struggling to find its footing.
The baby cannot speak yet. It cannot say “cannot”. If it could, it probably would say: “I cannot breathe using my lungs because I’ve never done it before”, or “I cannot move outside water, or eat by mouth because I haven’t done either of those things before”, but the baby cannot speak.
It has to do what is required for its survival: breathe, kick, and suckle – all new skills even if they are innate. When we have no choice, we do what needs to be done to ensure that we not only survive, but thrive.
The challenge that we face as we grow more self-sufficient and hopefully independent, is that we develop language. Most languages have the word “cannot” in one form or another. “Cannot” is an expression of choice – a luxury that we do not have when we make our debut into the world.
I suggest that this choice that we liberally exercise via the word: “cannot” marks the beginning of our failure as individuals and professionals. It affords us the option to pass our responsibilities to others. You see, the word “cannot” nips away at any goal-oriented process in the bud before it even begins.
This seemingly harmless word that we unapologetically, even proudly allow into our vocabulary has the power to switch our mind into unhelpful modes of operation. By vocalising (or writing) this little word, we take our power to do anything and hand it over to some other person or thing. We take away the “can” in us.
From there on, all we see, hear, and think about a potentially progressive idea becomes heavily covered in seemingly impenetrable layers of perfectly plausible reasons why we “cannot”, “should not” and therefore unfortunately will not even take the first step towards an endeavour that we claim to want to accomplish.
In my work I often hear plenty of “I cannot:
1. Understand math/science/languages, etc. They go in and comes right out the other ear,
2. Take part in sports. I’m not that sporty,
3. Get a good grade. Only those people are smart,
4. Speak in public. I’m too shy,
5. Apply for that top position,
6. Be fit and healthy. Everyone in my family is obese,
7. Stop drinking/smoking... The brewers and catchy adverts keep tempting me”.
Caution: Pick the number(s) that applies to you at your peril. Whatever you think; you are right. The universe’s job is not to argue with you. The world only exists to reflect your image, thoughts, and energy right back to you. Therefore, it you think that you “can”, you are right you can. If you think you “cannot”, you are right too.
Your thoughts are yours to do whatever you want with. Now what you have got to do is decide whether you want to paralyse the achiever in you and effectively turning him or her into a chronically self-doubting failure.
Look, reaching any goal doesn’t magically happen. To begin with, success is whatever you make it out to be at any given time. It is realised by joining little wins that gain momentum and together create seemingly impossible feats of genius to happen.
Success is moving towards the goal one little win at a time. My success today is writing and submitting this article to my editor before his strict deadline. It’s way past midnight on Wednesday, June 2. I’m still up writing this article for you.
I have jumped over the hurdle of my fatigue at the end of yet another long day and ignoring my sore back as I do this. I’m pulling at every bit of wakefulness that is still available to me to keep my mind working long enough to do this. I am giving it everything I had at the time to honour my commitment to deliver this on time.
I am consciously choosing to leave the word “cannot” out of my ability to do this mind because I cannot disappoint my editor and I cannot fail you, the reader who would be positively impacted by this message. This is my success today.
Like that newborn, you have no other choice to exercise except decisive action if you are to achieve the goals that keep you awake at night and dreaming during the day. What wins and success would be achieved by leaving “cannot” out of your thoughts today?
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