Hanging on the door of my physical therapy setting is a sign that says can’t. But like this illustration, there’s a cancel line drawn through it. The message is clear.
The message is clear. The word can’t is not only discouraged at LePre Physical Therapy…it is forbidden. It is so easy when directed to undertake a seemingly difficult exercise to mutter, “I can’t do that.” But the point is…you can do it. The therapist wouldn’t be suggesting it to you if you couldn’t do it. Either you trust the skill and knowledge of the therapist or you ought to find another place to have your physical therapy. (From my perspective, you won’t find a better one around, however.)
Can’t is one of those words that little kids pick up on very quickly.
Mommy, I can’t do that. It’s too hard!”
“I can’t go to school today. My tummy hurts.”
“I can’t eat those beans. They make me sick.”
You don’t have to be a whiner to get into that habit. All you need is a compliant parent who believes you, because they remember having the same attitude when they were a toddler. But parenting calls for the ability to separate healthy and positive behavior from memories of laziness or just plain whining.
Adults aren’t much different. We may employ the word can’t in different circumstances, but we are just as quick to jump on the word when we are faced with a difficult decision.
We can’t possibly afford life insurance right now. It’ll have to wait until we’re in a better place.”
“I can’t possibly take on that job. I’m already up to my neck in projects.”
“I know we need a new car, but, what with our bills we can’t find a way to go into further debt.”
“Sorry, Melody, but I can’t make it to lunch today. I’ve got a thousand things to do.”
Can’t is a word that means cannot. It doesn’t mean “I don’t want to.” Or “It’s too difficult.” Those are just excuses.
I think my physical therapists have the right idea. Cancel the word. Remove it from your lexicon. If you really are unable to do something, find other words to be honest about your hesitancy.
But can’t is a cop out.
Glyph credit: communitymystar12