Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Can't vs Don't

To my son Tommy,

How you frame a negative is very important.  If you are trying to quit something or to stop doing something use the word don't when at all possible.

When you say you can't do something this suggests that some outside factor is making your decision and controlling you.  It begs for an addition to the reasoning of why you can't..  "I can't eat that because my cardiologist says..." You need to explain who or what is stopping you.  Giving this power to an outside force is never conducive to accomplishing your task.  Not only does it relinquish some internal power, it also makes you feel like you are being punished.  "I want to but I can't"

If you say you don't do something, it implies that it is your decision and not some external influence.  "I don't drink soda..."  It comes more from a place of power and seems to say that you have taken control of a situation.  You may have to explain "I don't drink soda because there is too much sugar and too many empty calories" or you may have to qualify "I don't drink soda, anymore" but either way you seem more at peace and at terms with your decision.

Take for example smoking.  Your mommy and I are well over seven months without a cigarette.  If I were offered a smoke today there are a couple possible answers.  If I say "I can't" I'd have to explain my reasoning 'because I would never be able to quit again if I re-start".  Very true statement but it sure sounds like the nicotine still has its hold on me.  It sounds like I really want to and it is not my decision to quit.  If I say "I don't smoke anymore" it comes off fairly definitive and leaves no doubt that I have made my decision and plan on sticking with it.

As life goes, you will have times when you have to stop doing something.  Whether it is dieting, or smoking cessation, or some other bad habit that you need to break.  Focus in on what you don't or won't do anymore and not what you can't do.  What you say aloud convinces others, but more importantly convinces yourself.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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