I Can't! I Won't! The LuLu Lesson

My 2 year old (whom we call LuLu) has a new phrase, “I can’t”. If we ask him to do something that he doesn’t want to do, but he knows it is pretty much a non-option at the end of the day, his protest comes out in the form of these words. It doesn’t come out as calmly as you just read it, though. There is no way to capture the way he uses those words in print. Let me delight your senses to the best of my ability in an attempt to paint the scene. Typically, there is flailing. Lots of it. “I can’t!! I can’t!!” complete with flailing about in only the way a 2 year old can. I imagine it would look similar to getting a monkey drunk. There is also an inexplicable tone in which he says it-somewhat whiny, a bit desperate, and a pinch of-yet again- something resembling a drunk monkey. My husband and I find it ridiculous, and really, really funny. We now also say it at times we are resisting doing something we don’t want to do. Will you take out the garbage? “I can’t! I can’t!” We take turns trying to replicate the tone and scene for pure entertainment purposes-a bit sick, I know. It helps us cope with the terrible twos. Not since that time in our own lives has that kind of behavior been considered acceptable. It’s a bit liberating, really. “I can’t” is really-”I don’t think I can”. “I can’t” is a statement of fear, hesitation, and safety. If you don’t try-you don’t fail. If you can’t, you won’t.

While there is humor in LuLu’s retort (Thank God-or we’d be completely mad by now), I realize how often we tell ourselves, “I can’t”. I can’t lose weight. I can’t start my own business. I can’t leave a toxic relationship, job, or place. I can’t pursue what I really want. I can’t find time. I can’t do it. On and on and on AND ON. The reality is we define our own reality. If you define your world, capacity, and opportunity with the word can’t you never will do any of things you may deeply want. Sure-it keeps us comfortable, maybe even safe, but is it really where you want to be? To stay? My guess is that in your heart of hearts, the answer is that you would rather find out what you can do. Don’t limit yourself with those words-those thoughts-or that definition. Life is way too short for that

  1. Make a list of the things you can do. We far too often focus on the things we can’t do and it never dawns on us to shift our mindset to the things we can do and engage in on a daily basis. You may just surprise yourself when you start paying attention to something new.

  2. Make a list of things you wished you could do if you felt a bit braver, a bit more competent..heck-a bit taller. Whatever. We all have a list like that. Make that list.  

  3. Instead of asking why can’t I do the things on your list. Ask yourself a different question-how can I get to a place where I can do it. For example-are you trying to shift gears in your life and want to go back to school, instead of saying, “I could never do that” try asking, “what could I do to make that happen?” and see how you feel.

Molly Kreyssler