Conquering the “I Can’t”!

The Motorcycle Safety Course was the highlight of 2017. It was challenging, exciting and motivating. It pushed me past my limits. By taking the course I put myself into an uncomfortable situation, overcame obstacles and found success.  The success I found was not just in building a new skill but an internal success. I found a place of peace that I could never have imagined and could now never be taken from me.

Yet looking back on the Motorcycle Safety Course, I remember one Drill vividly; The Box. The drill was simple. There was a box painted on the asphalt, 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, and in order to pass the Basic Rider course you had to perform a figure 8 within it. It conjured up dread. I scoured the internet and discovered horror stories. The result was like having a headache and going to WebMD to check your symptoms and discover you might have Ebola.

Motorcycles at low speeds are more unstable. Even the name was ominous, conjuring images the hotboxes of old prisons and POW camps. I watched as others drop their bikes attempting the Box. After fiddling around with counterweight turning, and throttle control and almost dropping the bike numerous times I remember repeating two words over and over to myself and to the other riders in the class.

“I can’t.”

I knew it was possible but just not for me and saw my chance at obtaining a motorcycle license vanish.

It had to be possible. There are millions of motorcyclists in the country and they had done the Box but I kept telling myself that I can’t do it. However, what I was saying was a lie. Every time I uttered those words I was really saying “I am unwilling”. I am unwilling to practice. I am unwilling to learn. I am unwilling to endure public embarrassment when I dropped my bike.  I was unwilling to feel the shame of not living up to my own potential.

How did I beat the box? We will get to that later!

I seem to have developed a habit of saying “I can’t”. I think that many of you have developed the same habit.

“I can’t” allows us an escape into excuse making. When we say “I can’t” we are telling ourselves that we are not talented enough, smart enough, strong enough, or any other number of self-deprecating messages. “ I can’t” is saying that we are incapable. Incapable means lacking the capacity, ability or qualifications to get it done. I looked it up in the dictionary…and yes I actually still have one.

There are very few things that any of us are truly incapable of doing. If we want there to be reasons why we can’t do something, we will always find them.

“I can’t” is just another way for saying “I am incapable”. Capacity is able to be enhanced. Our incapacity to do anything is a fixable problem that requires nothing more than time, skill and maybe help from others.  Many obstacles, we face in life, are barriers to success only because we don’t have the skill or the time to develop the skill and this can be fixed in fairly straightforward manner. We can either develop the skill or we can find the time in order to develop the skills we need. When it comes to time we have to be honest about our priorities.  We often prioritize so many other things that we end up falling back into the familiar habit of saying “I can’t find the time.” When you say you can’t do something you eliminate your ability to see what you can do.

“I can’t” is the biggest lie we have ever uttered. Two simple words form the most comprehensive lie ever told in human history. Saying “I can’t” is resigning to a future failure. It is a way to justify all our failures. When we say “I can’t” we remove responsibility and accountability replacing it with a comfortable escape.  Do you want to keep lying or do you want to get honest?  Wow, now there is a tough question.

When we say “I can’t” what we are really saying is that we are unwilling. Unwilling means to be reluctant or offering opposition to perform the challenge. Yes, I looked this up in the dictionary as well.

Being unwilling to do something is honest.  Often we are unwilling to practice, to put in the time, to put in the effort and to make the sacrifices that we need to in order to find success. We are unwilling to be uncomfortable, to take a risk, and to be vulnerable to the judgments of others.  Much of the opposition we face when challenged is self-imposed but it stings the pride and we don’t like to have our pride trampled.

Willingness is harder to create. It is difficult to conjure especially when we can fall back into familiar habits and create comfortable excuses. Willingness means we hold ourselves accountable and we take responsibility for both the success and the failures. Willingness requires discipline and discipline requires motivation to stay the course when every obstacle has been thrown in our path.

Motivation is at the heart of being able to accomplish anything. When we are motivated to do the work, to put in the effort and to sacrifice the things we find comfortable we succeed. Suddenly our perception changes and time is no longer an obstacle but an opportunity to develop our skills. Pain ceases to be a reason to quit but transforms into a signpost of improvement. Failure is no longer an option. Failure is no longer the end result but becomes a lesson to be analyzed and dissected. It becomes one more lesson to learn from on our path to success.

Unwillingness masquerades as incapable. We need to be able to tell these two apart. There is always a reason we won’t do something. Some reasons are legitimate. We need to ask ourselves “am I incapable or unwilling.” If we are incapable the solution is simple; become capable. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to develop the skills necessary to achieve success”.  Do I need more time? Do I need put in more effort? Do I need the help and support of others?  When we ask these questions a plan begins to develop fairly quickly.

If we are unwilling we just need to be honest about. There is no shame in being unwilling to do something.  Being unwilling to do something can be a way of setting boundaries in our lives and with the people in our lives. Being unwilling to do something can be a way of seeing our true priorities.

I am unwilling to drink. I am unwilling to allow someone to abuse me. These are boundaries, and healthy ones at that. I am unwilling to put someone else’s happiness before mine. I am unwilling to do something that restricts my personal freedom. Those prioritize personal values, personal happiness and freedom. Unwillingness is not intrinsically negative.

So how did I beat the Box in the Motorcycle Safety Course?

I got honest. I changed my internal language. I admitted I was unwilling to be embarrassed by dropping the bike in front of others. I ask myself what I needed in order to not be embarrassed.

The answer was stupidly simple; I needed to not drop the bike. This prompted the next question and the beginning of an action plan. What did I need to do to not drop the bike in the Box? I needed to know how to do the box. I needed extra time to practice. So I researched slow speed maneuvers on motorcycles, educated myself on the physics of it all, and learned as many tricks as possible. Then I did the unthinkable; I asked the instructors for extra time to practice the Box. Instead of judgment and snide remarks I expected, I received a smile and was given as much time as I needed.

In the end I conquered the Box on the first try. I passed the course and received my license. More importantly I conquered my fear of others judgment by admitting to what I needed to be successful. I got honest with myself and stopped making excuses and giving up.

Can’t you or are you just unwilling to?

Are you ready to get honest with yourself?

2 thoughts on “Conquering the “I Can’t”!

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  1. Thank you. I was introduced to the concept of “I Can’t vs Unwilling” this summer and it has really impacted the way I live my life. I find that I am forced to be more honest with myself and as a result I am living a more authentic life.


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