How changing one word can change your life
27th March, 2010
This one word will often pique the interest of counsellors who are paying close attention to the exact words their client's are using (along with a couple of other words, but we can leave them for later). This particular word is can't. If any of my where to be reading this right now they can probably hear my voice in their heads saying "there's no such thing as can't, there's only won't".
Sure - you can't fly, you can't turn your legs into wheels and you can't develop psychic abilities. All those things are the boundaries of our existence, the givens of our world. The natural laws that we are all bound by can not be changed in those ways...physics may prove us all wrong on some of these but not for a while.
So what do counsellors mean when they say "there's no such thing as can't, only won't". Let's use an example:
* I can't go on holiday this summer
* I won't go on holiday this summer
The former statement implies you have no choice in the matter. The latter begs the question "why not?". Why won't you on holiday this summer? You can't afford to pay for it or you don't want to make some short term sacrifices to save up the money for your holiday? The choice is always yours. Plenty of people CAN (and do) save up the money to go on holiday so it's not a REAL can't.
You can't leave your job even though you hate it. Maybe you're choosing not to leave your job because although you loathe it, it feels safer than being in the job market. You're making that choice. The choice is up to you. There's no judgement, none at all, in admitting the job market is a scary place to be and it's not for you right now. That's totally fine, but don't lie to yourself and say you can't leave your job. Reframe it by saying - I choose not to leave my job right now. I don't enjoy the work I do but I do like the security this job offers me right now.
Try it for a bit in your own life. Every time you say you can't do something, question it. Is it that you can't or is that you don't want to? What changes do you notice? How hard was it? Has your understanding of your choices changed?
Related articles from our experts
Rivka MennessonOctober 9th, 2017
Annabelle Hird, MBACPOctober 5th, 2017
Jacqueline Karaca M.Sc. Hons Counselling Psych; MBACP Reg.October 3rd, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.