List what you think you cannot do

by Admin
Updated: August 14, 2020

When you list what you think you cannot do, you can reveal and overcome hidden limitations

Starting from an early age we accumulate ideas about ourselves that limit our options. These are not fears as such. Instead they are often constraints we feel comfortable with: “I’ll never have the skill to do this.” “I’ll never be the type of person who could do that.” In fact we are often so comfortable with them we allow them to go unquestioned.

Sometimes it’s probably for the best, e.g. “I’ll never be able to play the bagpipes.”

Sometimes it can be extremely self-destructive, e.g. “I’ll never get out of debt.”

Fears are difficult to ignore. Few fears are completely irrational but the effects the ways they affect our lives are often detrimental and we can be embarrassed by them.

Examples: Aerophobia (fear of flying). Arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

Overcoming fear is generally an acceptable priority in anyone’s life.

In comparison, acknowledging a lack of ability or skill not only seems harmless but is often lauded as some kind of humility.

Examples: “I’m no good at math.” “I can’t speak in front of a large audience.” “I’ll never be able to juggle.”

The problem here is that ideas like this are usually only the tip of the iceberg: “I’ll never be able to juggle” is a euphemism for “I don’t think I have good motor skills.” This is registered at a subconscious level and has the effect of discouraging us from attempting related things that would otherwise be beneficial & enjoyable.

Overcoming fear is not the point

If there is something you need to do in order to move forward in life, you probably need to do it well.

Overcoming a fear of doing something does not mean you’ll be good at it. Sometimes this matters a lot.

Take public speaking for example. Overcoming your fear of addressing a large audience and delivering a presentation sounds great at face value. But if your success depends on it and your presentation is dreadful then it’s a disaster.

Regardless of whether or not you are also afraid, the slight belief that you cannot do something almost guarantees you’ll do it badly. This reinforces the idea that you cannot do it at all and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But it’s not a viscous cycle, it’s a comfort cycle...

The comfort zone

Constraints that we accept for ourselves protect us from the many discomforts of doing, learning and even thinking about the tasks in question. What’s the point in trying if you know it’s something you really can’t do?

Breaking free

Let’s be real - we cannot do everything well. At certain things, we’ll be better than we thought. At others, worse.

When you’re growing a business this doesn’t matter because you can & should employ specialists.

At interim stages, when something has to be done and there’s no-one but you there to do it, saying “I can’t” doesn’t solve anything.

Additionally, when you’ve at least attempted something, you’ll benefit from increased experience & understanding.

The key is to determine and practice simple steps that are directly relevant in ways that work for you.

Example: It isn’t necessary to learn music theory when all you need is to be able to play a couple of songs. Some songs are easier than others and some methods of learning will suit you more than others.

Once again fear is irrelevant, but being good at something makes overcoming a fear of doing it much easier.

Make that list

Find out how many little prejudices you have about yourself.

More info

“What’s the simplest thing you can’t do?” at (Archived thread with more than 19,000 comments) [Language warning!].

“The List of Things I Cannot Do” at

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” - Henry Ford, 1947, per

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