What's The Word That's REALLY Holding You Back


One of the great joys I have in my work is that I get to have deep conversations with people from all seasons of life. They may just be starting out on their career, anxiously trying to figure out what they want to do to make a difference. Others might have reached a level of success, but find they want to explore new options, while another may be yearning to start their own business or make a major life shift. What I find interesting is that the inability for all of them to move forward is caused by using the word can't when they should be using the word won't.

I get it. Too many times in my life I have missed opportunities because I would say to myself, “I just can’t do that.” Even last week I was looking at a course I wanted to take to improve my coaching skills and I said, “I can’t work that into my schedule.” As I reflected a little longer on my situation, however, I recognized the hesitation was because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of rearranging some things on my calendar.

With the assistance of the Internet, we have learned that anything we think we can’t do has been done by someone, usually in much more challenging situations than our own. The difference is what they were willing to forego to make it happen. I'm not talking about sacrificing your values or doing something unethical. Instead I am referring to those things that make us uncomfortable or might call for a change in current habits, attitudes, or in some cases, even relationships.

So if a new direction for your work or life is looming over you, drop the can’t language and instead start looking at what you won’t do that’s the real source of your hesitation. If you need some help on what some of those "wont’s" might be, here’s a list to get you started:

  • Have a difficult conversation with ____________ (insert “boss,” “family member,” or “friend.”)
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on __________________ (insert “social media,” “binge watching,” “sleeping,” or “busy work.”
  • Invest in your own future.
  • Reduce spending.
  • Slow down enough to look at the big picture.
  • Stop seeing constant physical and mental exhaustion as a badge of honor.
  • Have a meaningful conversation with a friend or trusted colleague about your current dilemma, challenge, or sense of helplessness because of pride or feeling like you're a failure.

Henry David Thoreau spoke of the consequences of can’t with his words, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…” What most people don’t realize is that his sentence doesn’t actually end there, but continues with “…and go to the grave with the song still in them.” What’s the won’t you need to address to make sure your “song” has a chance to be sung?

For more related to this topic:
Are You Certain That You're Trapped? (Seth Godin article)
31 Ways To Accomplish Your Most Important Things More Often