Carol the Coach: Practice Saying "I Choose Not To"

Words hold power  .“ So often women speak tentatively about their needs and desires. One of the easiest ways to reinforce your sense of power and capabilities is to choose words that reflect a sense of assuredness. When I talk to women about formulating their goals they tell me that they feel timid about the projected outcome. As a result, they find themselves thinking or saying the phrase “I can’t.” 

The words that you choose help to reinforce your sense of power. Therefore, it is imperative to change your dialogue both externally and internally. Your assignment is to replace the word “can’t” with “I choose not to.”  This too will be a powerful tool in making your life different.  “Getting what you need” requires that you either change or fine-tune your internal dialogue so that you will feel differently about your choices.    I want you to shift your negative dialogue into powerful thoughts.  When people listen to their own internal negative dialogue it keeps them from reaching their goals.  In therapy, we call this “critical thinking” or “the critical parent”.  Your parents were typically well meaning in their attempts to protect you, yet they instilled the “what could go wrong” approach.  Do you remember your parents warning you not to trust people or to stay away from something?  This conditioned you to look at negatives first.  

When you find yourself saying or thinking the word “I can’t”, stop yourself and change the word to, “I choose not to”.  This gives you power.  Let’s look at some typical examples:
•    “I can’t get over him.”  Replace it with “I choose not to get over him.”  
•    “I can’t lose weight.”  Replace it with “I choose not to lose weight right now.”  
•    “I can’t get up early.”  Replace it with “I choose not to get up early today.”
•    “I can’t find time to read or exercise or get away.”  Replace it with “I choose not to find time…”

You may be wondering how the words “I choose not to” empowers.  The word “can’t” infers inadequacy.  “I choose not to” presupposes that you can, but you choose not to today.  The mind is a very powerful tool and your thinking is constantly feeding into your sense of confidence.  When you say that you choose not to then you open up the possibility of saying at a later date “I am ready to get over him, or lose weight, or get up early.
Homework Assignment
Let’s start out with the basics.  For the next month I want you to: 
•    Stop yourself when you hear the word “can’t”.
•    Replace it with “I choose not to”.
•    Notice how different it feels consciously to make the choice not to do it.
•    Tell a girlfriend or co-worker about your assignment so that they can remind you if they hear the terminology “I can’t.”   

By working on this assignment, you will be primed for the next step, which is to figure out how you will accomplish getting up earlier, losing weight, moving on to another relationship or finding time for yourself.  In the months to come, you will be learning how to use thought stopping to bypass your negative thinking and reconstruct your critical thoughts into self-affirming ones.  Your power to change your life comes from changing your thinking and your speech!

Just remember I have never, in my thirty-plus years of psychotherapy, met a client who could not achieve their goals.  I have only met clients who choose not to.