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It's close to impossible to suddenly say "I can," and truly believe it, after years of saying "I can't!" To change an "I can't" attitude (mind-set) into an "I can" attitude is not a simple process of thought, like simply changing your mind. It is much, much more difficult than that. A mind-set can be hard to change.
Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble.
- William S. Halsey
The roots of old attitudes run deep.
The "I can't" or "I can, if" attitudes become more apparent when we face situations that involve risk; situations where the outcome is uncertain. Typical uncertain outcomes are success vs. failure, reward vs. loss, acceptance vs. rejections. The "I Can't" attitude is a fear of the risk of uncertainty; of not having the confidence to handle what ever may happen. The "if" in "I can, if" is if everything goes my way; if I pick the right lottery numbers; if my horse comes in; if the sun comes out...if, if, if. The definition of "if" is...on the condition that...therefore, "if" is based on a scenario that is dependent on conditions outside of our control. "If" is really the same as "I can't" with some rationalizations (excuses) so that we can avoid confronting the risk of uncertainty.
If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right.
-Mary Kay Ash
Two of but's dreariest friends, if only and try.
Another learned attitude that many of us posses is that of the "victim". This also is a limiting and negative mind-set. In today's society, it seems that it is in vogue to blame somebody else for one's own situation. "Victimization" seems to be the word of the day. If we blame somebody else, it's no longer our fault...after all, we are the victims here, and we hve no responsibility for the way things may turn out.
Playing the victim is another way to avoid confronting the fear of risk. As victims, we feel that we have no control over our lives. Therefore, the predicament that we find our self in is someone else's fault, not ours. As a victim we feel powerless. This is another example of a self-limiting, negative attitude.
If you are a person who suffers from the "I can't" syndrome, the "victimization" syndrome or any other self-limiting attitudes...take heart…there is a reason why and there is a way out. Most of us, unfortunately, learn early in life that artificial limits have been placed on us by well-meaning, but limiting people. (This will be discussed in more detail a little later in the program.) We are usually well aware of these limits, and take these limits as our true limitations. However, we are usually unaware of their true origin and, likewise, unaware that these limits are actually false limits.
No one knows what he can do until he tries
-Pubilius Syrus, 1st century B.C..
Have you ever heard a parent talking to a child and saying something like: "You can't do anything right!" Now think of this statement being repeated to this child by his parent(s) thousands of times throughout his childhood. When this child grows into an adult, do you think there is a pretty good chance that this person has a message that plays and replays in his/her head something like, "I can't do anything right!"? Do you think that this is a real limit (a true, proven, limitation) or a false limit (a limitation that has never been actually tested)? Does this strike a cord in your own life?
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.
-Dorothy Law Nolte
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