She Says She Can’t

She stopped by the office unexpectedly, and fortunately I was there to sign her up, because every time I meet with a new Participant I learn something.  She’s young, but her brown eyes were dull with discouragement.  And for every idea that she advanced about a way that she and her husband could press forward to move themselves out of poverty and into another income bracket,  her sentence ended with the words, “I can’t, because…”

Today I found a new response to the words, “I can’t, because…”  It is a response that worked for this one resident; I suspect I’ll need to listen and learn in order to find equally effective responses.

Marie T. Russell asks, “What would life be like if we didn’t have a list of “I can’t because” rules and scenarios.  Those old “what ifs” can stop a goal from being set much less reached, according to Melissa Miller-Young.

Sometimes “I Can’t” sounds a little like blame.  Blame is a commodity in great supply these days and on occasion it gets leveled with equal opportunity at things, conditions, and sometimes even the weather.

“I want to get a job but I can’t find one that accommodates the hours I can work.”  Blame the job market.

“I want to go back to school but when I enrolled they said I would need to take some remedial courses.” Blame the educational system.

Not taking responsibility is one of the ten big reasons people do not set goals, according to  If we think about it, though, we are solely responsible for all the choices in our life.  This is a hard concept to think about, however. And that’s when it hit me:  rather than search for ways to introduce concepts that sometimes take an entire book to explain, maybe I should just cut to the chase. The next time she said, “I can’t, because…” I jumped right in.

“Because.”  I repeated.  She waited, and I said nothing.
So she took up her train of thought.  “I can’t, because…”
“There it is again.  That word.”
Her brown eyes questioned. “What word?”
“The word ‘because,’ I smiled.  Then I leaned in.  “It is always easy to think of reasons why something won’t work.”
“Well sure.  But sometimes you should listen to those reasons because-”

But I interrupted.  “Throw that word away,” I urged.  “Stop editing yourself.  Successful people imagine what it feels like to reach a goal, and after they think about it in a positive light for a long enough time, do you know what happens?”

Now the brown eyes were smiling.  “Things come true?” she offered.

“No.  But answers come to mind.  It’s not magic. Real work is involved.  But you won’t know where to begin until you throw away the words ‘I can’t, because.”

Then she showed how pretty her eyes are when they twinkle. And after that she got down to the business of selecting goals and the necessary steps to take that will lead her and her family out of Public Housing.