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If You Think You Can’t, You’re Probably Right

Read this and change the way you think. You can.

Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash

It’s a new year. A perfect time for a fresh start. A new-and-improved you for what we all hope will be a new-and-improved year. (Good riddance, 2020!) To make changes in yourself, consider reading any of the zillion motivational books available. If you prefer, you could listen to or watch any of the thousands of motivational speakers and motivational podcasts.

(Or you could read my blog. This one. I mean, since you’re already here and all.)

Trust me, you can find all sorts of self-help books and talks to help you become “You 2.0,” whatever you envision that model to be. In fact, when you go to a certain online bookstore (which Shall Not Be Named) and search for “self-help books,” more than 500,000 titles appear. If you want to improve, the resources are available.

So why is it you can’t <insert phrases here such as “fix my problem,” “get ahead,” “become a success,” “be appreciated”> or reach any other number of achievements?

If you read all the self-help books on the topic of decision-making (after you had made a decision to read them, of course), you would learn about the science of decision-making and about the process of decision-making, and, finally, how to make decisions.

If you read up on “smart thinking,” you would be introduced to “critical thinking and problem-solving skills.” If you read up on “how to manage people,” you might learn how to be an effective leader, how to avoid the “Top 10 Mistakes” in managing people, or how to manage people without them even realizing it.

Whatever you need to be You 2.0, you can read or listen and takeaway exactly what you need to do to become that new you. But, even after all that, what if you still CAN’T _________?”

If you’ve read this far you’re wondering, “What is it I can’t do? I can make decisions — in fact, I do so every day, many times! I can do my job very well. I can help people! I can make a difference. I can …, I can …,” and the list goes on and on.

Maybe you can make decisions easily. Perhaps you are an excellent public speaker or a brilliant analytical mind or an effective manager. Most likely you are intelligent. (Feels great to hear all this, doesn’t it?)

As the self-help books attempt to convince you, it’s time to feel good about yourself! It’s time to say, “Hey, I CAN do this, right?” (Just don’t keep answering yourself. Trust me, people will think you’re strange).

And, frankly, I’m sure you can do many things and probably do them well. But you’ve got that one (or two or four) little thing that you can’t seem to conquer.

So, can’t is a problem. Well, to me, it’s the most debilitating word in any language.

Can’t. Can’t do it. Most people do have something they can’t do (or don’t do well).

But what is the niggling skill you can’t seem to do well? Can’t resist sweets? Can’t stay consistent with a workout routine? Can’t keep your inbox orderly? Can’t make yourself complete the big projects because the little, urgent tasks overwhelm? Can’t effectively manage your staff while working remotely? Can’t keep your mouth shut when you know you should? Can’t do …? Or …?

But, let’s face it. It’s not that easy to get over can’t. Can’t sticks with you, it dominates your thoughts, it consumes your personality. You become a “can’t person,” someone who is defeated in advance, someone who won’t even try, someone who doesn’t believe — who thinks the decision has already been made, and the answer is “no.”

It was the carmaker, Henry Ford, who once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Since my post is to help you get beyond your “can’t thinking,” I simply say, “If you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Is that who you want to be? Someone who thinks she can’t and, therefore, can’t? Don’t settle for that “can’t do” attitude.

Get past the negative self-talk

So how do you get past can’t? How do you convince yourself you can? CAN you convince yourself you can?

A negative attitude and demeanor aren’t just something you blow off. I learned that a long time ago, in one of my first jobs as a manager. I was extremely fortunate to have a tremendous mentor, someone who let me fly, and fall, on my own and then helped me analyze what worked and what didn’t.

Certainly, some things stuck with me. First off, I was a manager, not a mental health counselor. While I wanted to help everyone, it quickly became obvious I couldn’t — there’s that can’t again. But, it was a legitimate can’t, a true “don’t go there because you can’t” fact.

Next, I learned that the axiom (attributed to the great Wayne Gretzky) was true: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” If you can’t take risks, you can’t achieve great things. I also learned to apply the old, old story of The Little Engine That Could and the philosophy of “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

So, does a positive attitude make it all okay? No, of course not. You can have all the positivity in the world, but if you don’t take action — if you remain indecisive, if you have too many doubts — it’s already in the cards, you CAN’T.

There is such a thing as pre-determination, and it can definitely affect results. We all know negativity is a huge obstacle to getting positive results. But a positive attitude — plus planning, plus action — can help make things happen.

How do you get positive?

First, believe in what you are doing.

If you’re just “treading water” at work, or in life, or in general, it’s time to change. It’s time to mix things up; it’s past time to start anew. It’s fairly easy to get in a rut doing the “same ol’, same ol’.” So it doesn’t hurt to make adjustments, whether that means getting a new job/career, trying a new hobby, making new friends.

Something in a new direction should shake things up. Just be careful to make it a positive change, not something that will add to your complacency.

Second, find some internal motivation.

Think about it. What really makes you feel good about what you are doing or where you are going? Take some serious time to think it over, write it down, make some notes to yourself. (I write myself a letter — actual letters — and read them over and over).

If you’re not self-motivated, you won’t do well, and you probably can’t. Unless you decide you will try. Then set deliberate goals for yourself and take a determined step in another direction — the direction of self-satisfaction with yourself and your life.

Third, be positive to others.

It’s been shown in psychology that it actually takes very little to discourage people, but it takes continual reinforcement to encourage them. As a famous person once said, “Be one of the helpers.” (Okay, it was Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He’s famous to me!).

Becoming a positive person with a positive outlook rubs off on others, and they will (usually) be positive back to you. Sure, some people are never happy, but you can be happy. Many times in our lives, it’s simply a choice.

The takeaway

So, is this one of those sappy, self-help, feel-good, encouragement blogs? I sure hope so (well, maybe not sappy). But, I believe you can become motivated to achieve.

We spend a lot of our lives looking for the “right stuff” — the right marriage partner, the right friends, the right job or career in which we can achieve things. But we don’t spend a lot of time looking for the right motivation.

It’s a new year! Take time to look within yourself, identify those stubborn can’t thoughts and eliminate them. You CAN! And now is a perfect time to do it.

Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.

Originally published at the IncubatorBlogger on January 5, 2021.



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Tech Licensing, Ventures, Pathways, and Accelerate, which includes two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We build business on innovation.