“I Can’t” Is Not A Reality

Last week, I got to go on The Daily Burn, a fitness show based here in New York, as their guest celebrity. I did the morning workout with them, and we did a really cool exercise about “reaching new heights” on a trampoline. You can still catch the interview, and if you’re looking for a fun, challenging workout to do every day, you can stream the workouts free for a month – check it out!

During the workout – it was about a half hour of cardio and strength-training – Greg, the instructor, said something that really struck me.

“If you’re thinking ‘I can’t do this’ – remember, that ‘I can’t’ is just an interpretation of a feeling. It’s not a reality,” he said. “Breathe into it, stay calm. Keep going.”

How profound! And it’s true in several ways – not just about exercise, but about life. Self-talk is a hot topic these days, and it’s continually being proven to work.

In 2013, sports researchers Samuele Marcora and Anthony Blanchfield conducted a study to test the efficacy of self-talk in endurance athletes. They divided cyclists into two groups, and had them bike-ride to exhaustion (sounds like a fun study to be in, right?). Then, one group was given a two-week self-talk intervention, while the other, the control group, wasn’t.

Two weeks later, when both groups were coached to cycle to exhaustion again, the self-talk group lasted 18% longer!

These findings have been replicated dozens of times, in activities ranging from basketball free-throws to badminton lobs. I’ve found it to be true in my experience, too, whether I’m running, swimming, mountain-climbing – but even more so in life, when I’m working on something important. Whatever my self-talk is, I tend to believe it – so I better get rid of that “I can’t” and stick to “I will.”

A few years ago, I decided to put on the first of the Women’s Empowerment Adventures – “Climbing the Wall of Life,” a rock-climbing adventure paired with a workshop about overcoming life’s obstacles.

I spent weeks preparing. I created activities, booked the climbing wall, marketed the event. I was excited, but also nervous –what if people hated it? What if I blew it?

As the day approached, more and more things went wrong. My hard drive crashed, taking with it the workshop’s activities (which, of course, I hadn’t backed up). I still hadn’t sold all the tickets, and I didn’t know how else to get people interested. On top of that, I’d volunteered to lead my daughter’s school trip the day before the event – I was running out of time.

Then, four days before the big day, I got a call from Clinique. They were doing a YouTube campaign about women’s empowerment, and when they heard about my event, they wanted to come and film it for an online campaign. Cool, right?

More like terrifying. They needed me for a full day of interviews that Thursday. So now, considering my daughter’s school trip, I had forty eight hours to pull this off. Plus, it was the first one, so I didn’t even know if it worked.

My heart said, “Go. You can do this.” My head, seeing the logistical nightmare I was facing, said, “I can’t,” and it came up with all sorts of “compelling” reasons why.

“I have no time. I’m still rewriting the workshop, and I don’t even know if it works. And I haven’t sold all the tickets. I can’t do all that by Saturday. I can’t make this good enough to out to all of YouTube.”

But by that point, I didn’t really have a choice. The space was booked, the food was ordered, some tickets were sold…so underneath all that “I can’t,” was a scared but firm “I have to.”

Saturday came. And you know what? People came, Clinique filmed it; we had a fantastic time, and people liked it so much, I had to start planning the next one right away! (Side note: I’m doing a trapeze adventure – this one for men AND women – on June 18. Check out www.moticise.com/events to sign up!)

Good thing I didn’t listen to those “I can’t” feelings. Doubt and fear are natural, especially when you’re trying something new and challenging. But it’s so important not to misinterpret those feelings. “I can’t” is not a reality.

What’s something that you want, but that “I can’t” feeling is stopping you?

What if, instead, you tell yourself “You got this”?

What would you do if nothing stood in your way?

Let’s take this mindset, right now, and put it to an exercise. That way, you can put it into your body, and get a bit of a workout (and yes, you can do it at work!).

We’re going to do a boxing move called a flurry.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your fists up in front of your face, and call to mind that thing you really, really want. If “I can’t” comes up, don’t worry – we’ll punch it out, right now.

For thirty seconds, we’re going to flurry – that means, punch as fast and powerfully as you can. Strong, controlled movements – be careful not to hyperextend.



Feel that power, that strength in your upper body and core! Fight those “I can’t” feelings – they’re not your reality! Keep punching! Faster!

Great job!

Remember this anytime you feel you’re up against something that scares you. “I can’t” is just your fear talking—it’s not real. You’re stronger than it. You’ve got what it takes to succeed.

Now go out and shine.

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