#986 Can’t vs. Won’t

Two Four-Letter Words

Over the last handful of +1s, we’ve had some fun with Marie Forleo’s wisdom from her GREAT (!) book Everything Is Figureoutable. (Seriously. Highly recommend it.)

Let’s spend some more time with Marie.

Today we’re going to talk about two four-letter words. (Fear not! We shall keep it “Rated O.”)

The four-letter words?

Can’t vs. Won’t.

Here’s how Marie puts it: “Let’s start by looking at your language and two common words that blur your ability to be honest with yourself. Those two four-letter words are ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.’ Think about how often people say some version of the following:

I can’t get up and work out every day.
I can’t find the time to get writing done.
I can’t forgive her for what she’s done.
I can’t take that job, it’s across the country.
I can’t ask for help.
I can’t ask for a promotion because I’m not good enough yet.
I can’t launch this project because my boss didn’t approve it.
I can’t ___________ [take the class/learn the language/start the venture/etc.] because I can’t afford it.

Here’s the problem: 99 percent of the time when we say we ‘can’t’ do something, ‘can’t’ is a euphemism for ‘won’t.’ What does ‘won’t’ mean? ‘Won’t’ means we’re not willing. In other words… You don’t really want to.


True, eh?

Today’s +1.

If you feel so inspired, write down your list of “I can’t”s.

Seriously. What “can’t” you do? Write a bunch of those down.


Cross those all out.

And re-write them with “I won’t…”

How’s that feel? A bit more honest? A bit more empowering?

As Marie says: “In my life, whenever I say ‘I can’t,’ most of the time what I really mean is ‘I won’t.’ I don’t want to. I have no desire to make the sacrifice or put in the effort to get that particular result. It’s not something I want badly enough or something I want to put ahead of my other priorities. Saying that you don’t want something (or don’t want to put in the work or sacrifice to get it) doesn’t make you bad or lazy. It makes you honest.

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