The Difference Between “I Can’t” and “I Won’t”

I-cant11You have within you enormous potential for success and happiness. There is likely nothing but you keeping you from achieving it. The question isn’t whether you can succeed, the question is whether you will choose to succeed.

Your success really begins with an understanding of the difference between “I Can’t” and “I Won’t.”

There are really very few things you actually “can’t” do. Most of the things you don’t do are because you simply won’t.

I “don’t” play a musical instrument. It’s not because “I can’t” it’s because I choose to invest my time hitting a golf ball into the water or trees. The time I could use to learn to play a musical instrument “I won’t” because apparently I prefer to torment myself on the golf course.

Now, I really “can’t” be the King of England. There are many reasons for this, chief among them I suppose is the fact that I was born in the United States. If you TRULY can’t control something, then and only then, might it be accurate to say you “can’t” do it.

Those things are few and far between. In fact, one of the greatest differences between the most successful people and people who only claim to want success is this: successful people have found a way to control the things that less successful people told themselves were out of their control.

There really isn’t much out of your control if you want to control it badly enough. With every “I Can’t” you sell yourself short, sometimes, incredibly short.

I said “I Can’t” to myself too often and it’s been a long slow process to understand why. There’s really two reasons for it. Fear and laziness.

Fear holds us all back from our goals. Fear of failure, fear of being laughed at, fear of what “other” people will think of us. The only way to really fail is to let that fear keep you from trying. The only real failures in the world are those people who have failed to even try.

Sadly, laziness is another big cause of “I Can’t.” Some people don’t try because they are willing to let other people do the work for them. They weigh out the effort required against the benefit for themselves and decide to just sit back and wait for someone else to make the effort. “I Can’t” becomes their go-to excuse for everything they don’t want to do.

Imagine the world if everyone had that attitude. Almost nothing would have ever been accomplished. If everything you do must have an immediate benefit for you then I’d be willing to bet that you have an “I Can’t” mindset. You settle for far less than you could have.

“I Can’t” leads to settling and settling leads to bitterness. You’ve told yourself you “can’t” so many times even you start to believe it. STOP! Stop telling yourself you “can’t and start telling yourself you will. YOU WILL!

Some people say they would do anything to improve their lot in life but when you observe them, even for a short time, it appears that in fact, not only will they not anything, they won’t even do one thing. They don’t even try.

What would people see if they watched you for a week? Would they see someone who has settled for “I Can’t” or would they see someone who has decided they will?

If you’ve been selling yourself short with the “I Can’t” mentality, even for a long time, you can change it this second. Never let anyone say you can’t and never never never tell that to yourself.

“I Can’t” will stop your success before it gets a chance to start. Give yourself a chance at success, say “YOU WILL.”



19 thoughts on “The Difference Between “I Can’t” and “I Won’t”

  1. Hi Steve,
    Your posts always bring out a simple yet critical difference in a topic — and this one is tremendous!

    When we admit that we have choices we own our future. Can’t vs won’t is very empowering and I will share this post on my social streams!

    Many thanks and bravo!

    1. Thanks Kate! I appreciate your kind words. I really do believe that we talk ourselves out of so much success.

      It’s amazing what happens when we just eliminate “I Can’t” from our vocabulary.

  2. Steve…I’ve read this post several times today. It’s that good!

    I absolutely love this paragraph: “Those things are few and far between. In fact, one of the greatest differences between the most successful people and people who only claim to want success is this: successful have found a way to control the things that less successful people told themselves were out of their control.”

    Thanks for your inspiration, my friend. I hope we can connect face-to-face some day.

    1. Thank you Kent, I appreciate your kind words. I don’t think anyone can simply talk their way into success but we sure can talk ourselves out of it. All we need to do is tell ourselves “we can’t” – its just about that easy.

      I’ve met many of my online friends face to face, perhaps our paths will cross as well.

  3. Reblogged this on Jottings and Writings and commented:
    There’s a big difference between “I Can’t and I Won’t” Can’t implies that you are unable (for whatever reason) to do something – Won’t means you aren’t even willing to try. Can’t can be worked around and resolved….. Won’t cannot.

  4. Thank you Steve for this motivating essay, I feel moved and like to share my bit of story about “I CAN …” if I can! This happened years ago when I saw my siblings swimming and wished I could swim too, but my legs were limp because of polio, so maybe I can’t! Then I read these Words of Truth from the Bible inspiring me: “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.” After walking round the pool many times and watching them swimming, I finally got myself into the pool…and it was impossible because all my legs could do was to float like a duck. But the duck could waddle, I could move then only a little with much effort.

    Very soon I learned to crawl and paddle clumsily around in the water in my funny style, but today I can swim regularly in a normal pool 8 to 10 laps each session and I can also walk in the pool too. My legs can do the swimming well enough but in my style. This is beyond anybody’s imagination! I know its God’s Grace and I’m forever grateful! This is the first time I ever shared it online! May your essay help many people move from “I CAN’T” to “I CAN & I WILL” (Sorry I can’t write this story with fewer words, thanks for allowing me to share my little story) Ruth Ng @ruthnglg 9 March 2014.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story Ruth. It is an inspiration in itself and you’re a great example of what’s possible when we decide that we won’t be stopped!

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