Jan 21 2013

The lie of “I can’t”

I’ve been teaching flute lessons a long time. Close to 20 years, on and off. And I will tell you that over the decades and over three states, one thing has remained constant.

The lie of “I can’t.”

Those two little words are eternal, I swear. Age, location, era, it doesn’t matter. Those two little words have come out of the mouth of every student I’ve ever taught. And every one of those students has learned that I will smack those two little words out of the air before they’ve finished speaking them.

“I can’t” is a lie.

Of course you can. Save “can’t” for the immutable. Things like people can’t survive in outer space without a pressure suit, or men can’t give birth, or I can’t begin to understand what the hell my son is talking about when he goes on and on about multiverses.

“Can’t” is the easy way out. It’s easier to say “I can’t” than to hunker down, figure out what needs to be done, and do it. Once I hunker down with my students in a lesson and walk them through what needs to be done, they absolutely can do it. Stuns them, amuses me proves me right.

What irritates me is that I let “I can’t” take over my own life a little too often. No, not with flute playing, no no no. I loooong got over that; I played music 20 years ago that is harder than anything I’ll ever play again. Not because “I can’t,” but because I am unwilling to rearrange my life to create the environment in which I could practice like I did then. So I know I can with my flute, I just choose not to. But in other areas of my life? Whew, I lie to myself entirely to often. “I can’t” get control of my to-do list, “I can’t” balance my life, “I can’t” figure out what I want to do with my life, “I can’t” find a job. All lies. Of course I can. Why I let myself believe the lies of “I can’t” is entirely beyond me.

Apparently I am unwilling to rearrange my life to create the environment in which I can. Disturbing. Of course I can get control of my to-do list, balance my life, figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and find a job. I’m just struggling, trying to figure out what I’m unwilling to change to turn those “I can’t”s to cans.

I know I’m not alone in this. Imagine what we all could do if we slapped that lie of “I can’t” out of the air before we’ve finished saying them. Of course we can.



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  1. Katie

    I can get my house clean and get a job and get my todo lists done…. as long as I ignore my kids’ needs. And I’m unwilling to do that. They need more time from me than the clean-house, done list, jobby world would allow.

    1. Jen

      I’m in the Catch-22 of “I can’t meet my sons’ needs if I don’t have a job.” 🙁

  2. My Kids Mom

    Yeah, I suppose I *can* find a job. But I’m sort of waiting for the job to find me.

    1. Jen

      I’ve been trying that, not working so hot. 🙁

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