Will you bury “Old Man Can’t,” or will he bury you?

Old Man Can’t is alive and well, and he may be sabotaging you without your even realizing it. Listen to your own words. How often do you use the word can’t throughout a normal day? I can’t come…I can’t attend…I can’t do that…I can’t get a job…I can’t get my boss to… Can’t becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy!

People who take charge of their lives personally and professionally rarely use the word can’t. Removing the word can’t from your vocabulary is one of the simplest – but most effective – things you can do for your professional wellness. Can’t many times turns into an excuse. Excuses are worthless. When you reframe the word can’t by saying, I choose not to…suddenly, you take ownership for your actions and start to shift your thinking. Why do I choose not to? What am I avoiding or ignoring? You are acting instead of being acted upon. You’re in control of your actions and you have thought about why you’re choosing this action. It also forces you to reframe things in a much more positive and proactive way which becomes another self-fulfilling prophesy with more productive outcomes.

This mindset shift can be learned. It takes conscious thought and requires complete honesty with yourself. You may need to enlist an accountability partner to help you catch yourself as you embark down this new path of opportunities. But the approach will transform your outcomes.

A friend of mine had been pursuing a new job opportunity for over 12 months when the economic climate changed significantly for the worse last fall. My friend continued hunting. Many people kept saying, “you can’t get a new job right now, you should just be happy with what you have.” What they were saying was this person should settle for something less instead of pursuing something better. Why? A few months later, my friend landed a fantastic job opportunity. Coworkers, friends, and family were all amazed it could be done with the economic downturn in full swing. My friend had taken a very proactive “I CAN do this” approach to preparing for this job opportunity that eventually appeared, and it made all the difference. Think about how a positive attitude looks to a perspective employer versus a can’t attitude.

Here are some strategies for feeding your mind a healthy dose of proactive “can do” thinking:

  • Develop a positive attitude. YES – you CAN learn how to do this! I heartily recommend the book Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller. It’s short, powerful, and teaches you how to change your attitude.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. It has been said you are a composite of the five people you surround yourself with the most, so choose your friends carefully. If someone constantly drains your energy, limit your contact with them. You start to share their feeling of misery after a while even when nothing’s wrong. Find people who are proactive, mentally engaged, innovative thinkers, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself reinvigorated with new ideas and opportunities.
  • Start a “can” journal. Every day, write down the five things you CAN do to positively impact your life, your surroundings, your job, your family, your coworkers, etc. This is similar to a gratitude journal only it’s focused on action. What CAN you do today? Then do them! While you’re at it…write down five things you’re thankful for, too. This combination is very powerful.
  • Evaluate what you’re filling your mind with daily. What are you watching on TV? What kinds of books or publications are you reading? What are you surfing for on the Internet? What are you listening to on the radio? Do these things encourage, uplift, and inspire you toward what you CAN do or do they depress and discourage you?

In his book, My Grandfather’s Son, Clarence Thomas talks about the impact of his grandfather’s influence in his life. “Old Man Can’t” stood for an attitude of helplessness in the face of adversity. His grandfather’s attitude was expressed, “Old Man Can’t is dead – I helped bury him.” That’s advice that the healthy mind can and must live by.

How do you overcome the “can’t” mindset?  Share your ideas by commenting on this post.

© 2010 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic