Have you ever noticed how telling yourself, “I can do this” is often met by an immediate mental barrage of excuses and self doubt? You tell yourself, “I can do this” to something difficult, and your brain hits you right back with a list of reasons why you probably can’t do this. What’s needed here is a key mindset shift that prevents the brain from making excuses right off the bat. If you frame your words of encouragement to yourself in such a way that they inherently deny all of the excuses and self doubt that you want to respond with, you’re left with no choice but to do the thing you set out to do. Instead of saying, “I can do this”, reframe your mantra into, “There’s no reason I can’t do this”.
I love running. And by that I mean I hate running 80% of the time, but I love the way running makes me feel, so I do it anyway. I wouldn’t consider myself a serious runner, I have no plans of ever running a marathon, or any distance longer than about six miles, but I do try to get a couple decent runs in every week. I’m not great at it by any means. My pace is generally somewhere between ten and twelve minutes per mile. But I know my body, and I know what I’m capable of and when I can push myself and when to stop. Running still sucks sometimes. Longer distances get boring, my legs hurt, my side hurts, my lungs are freaking out, whatever. There are a lot things that make running difficult. But most of running is mental. When I’m three and a half miles in to a five mile run, starting to get out of breath and also getting pretty bored of staring at the black Planet Fitness TV screen in front of me, I tell myself, “There is no reason I can’t do this”.
I know that my body is physically capable of carrying me for those five miles, even if my brain absolutely does not want to be doing this right now. My brain will complain and complain and tell me over and over that I can just stop. That there is no reason I have to be running five miles right now. My brain does not want to do this. But that doesn’t matter, because running five miles is what I should be doing in that moment, and more importantly, there’s no reason I can’t do this. Over and over, step after step, I’ll tell myself that there is no reason I can’t do this. And it gets me through. Because deep down, I know that I can do it, even if I don’t actually want to.
Realizing that there’s no reason I can’t do whatever I want to do was life-changing for me. I vividly remember scrolling through Tumblr one day near Thanksgiving 2015 and seeing a post a friend had made about being proud of the small steps she had made toward recovering from an eating disorder. And it just hit me. If she can do that, if she can begin to recover from such a difficult and harmful illness, then I, too, can make steps toward changing my life and becoming the person I want to be. After all, I wasn’t struggling with an eating disorder at the time. She was, and still managed to face that and make positive change in her life. So why couldn’t I?
I didn’t have a reason that I couldn’t change my life. That was a pivotal moment for me. My life is broken into a “before” and an “after” centering right over that moment when I realized that there is no reason I can’t do this. There is no reason that I can’t make changes to improve my life. There’s no reason I can’t go out and be who I love to be. And this applies to everyone. There are no reasons why you can’t work hard and become someone that you are proud to be. None. There are plenty of excuses, and there are sometimes reasons in one specific moment why you can’t do something right that second, but in the grand scheme of things,
there is no reason you can’t do this.
Apply this philosophy wherever it is useful in your life. Maybe it’s Saturday and you told yourself that on Saturday, you’d vacuum the house and give the dog a bath. But now Saturday is here and your brain is trying to find a way out of doing what you need to do. There is no reason you can’t do this. Unless the electricity is out at your house, so the vacuum won’t run, and the dog ran away, there’s no reason you can’t vacuum the house and bathe the dog. Or maybe you’ve decided to write a book. As long as you’re literate (and I assume you are) and have a pen and paper, or a phone, or a computer, or a piece of charcoal and a tablet, there’s no reason you can’t write a book. And if your brain is telling you otherwise, it’s wrong.
Your brain will try to tell you otherwise. It will tell you that you aren’t smart enough or committed enough or creative enough to write a book. It will tell you that you’d be happier watching tv than vacuuming the house. Your brain will tell you all sorts of lies to avoid doing things it doesn’t want to do. But remember, there is no reason you can’t do this. Don’t wonder if you can do something, instead know that there’s no reason you can’t. If you are in a position where you would benefit from taking an action and there’s no reason you can’t do it, then do it. Stop making excuses, tell yourself there’s no reason you can’t do this, then do it. There’s no reason you can’t turn your side hustle into a booming business. There’s no reason you can’t write a book. There’s no reason you can’t become a master in the kitchen. There’s no reason you can’t clean your house.
If you think I’m wrong about this, step back and really examine the reason you think you can’t do it. You can’t get your shit together because you constantly procrastinate? That’s just an excuse. There’s no reason you can’t stop procrastinating. You’ve got control over that. The next time that you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself there’s no reason you can’t stop procrastinating, and go do whatever it is you’re putting off. You can’t run five miles because your ankle is broken? Yeah. You’re right. That’s a real reason. There are times that something truly is preventing you from doing what you want. You can’t have that forest-vibes apartment that you’ve always wanted because you can’t keep plants alive? Well there’s no reason you can’t go online and do some research about why your plants keep dying. You can’t quit your job in order to start a new job you love more because you have kids? Tons of other people with kids have quit their job to start one they love, you’re no different.
I found this specific phrase while running. It just popped into my head one day when I was bored on the treadmill and my lungs didn’t really want me to keep going, even though they’d be just fine for a couple more miles. Running is still the place where I most often use there’s no reason I can’t do this. But I also apply it other places in my life, and had been applying the concept to my life long before I had the phrase to go with it. Recently, I had to initiate a very scary conversation with one of the most senior people at my job. I gave myself a few minutes in a quiet place to prepare and rehearse what I wanted to say, then told myself there’s no reason I can’t do this and marched right into his office and did it. Even if for some reason it feels like you can’t do something, that feeling is likely wrong.
If other people are doing it, so can you. Moving into early adulthood is a really weird time in life. I see “real adults” doing “real adult things” all the time and for some reason decide that I’m not like those people and I can’t do whatever it is that they’re doing. Sometimes I feel too young, like I’m still a teenager and not allowed to do the things I see others doing. But that isn’t true. When I face the facts, I have to face the notion that there is no reason that I can’t do the things I see everyone else doing. I can read every day. I can get up at 5 a.m. I can lose ten pounds. But reframing these into “there’s no reason I can’t read every day”, “there’s no reason I can’t get up at 5 a.m.”, and “there’s no reason I can’t lose ten pounds” makes it much more clear that I am capable of pretty much anything I want to do. And so are you.
The next time you find yourself avoiding doing something that you would benefit from and know you should do just because you don’t want to do it, ask yourself if there is a reason you can’t do it. It doesn’t matter if you want to do it or not. And if there’s no reason you can’t do it, then tell yourself that over and over, and go do it. After all, there’s no reason you can’t do this.