“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
– Wayne Gretzky, Hall of Fame Hockey Player
“I can’t seem to focus.”
“For as long as I can remember, I have been struggling with organization.”
“I’m really bad at sitting still.”
“I just can’t lose weight.”
“I will never make it to the dinner on time.”
“I am not good at math.”
Perhaps because of their previous experiences, my clients often begin their conversations with me by listing what they “can’t do.” Of course, they are coming to me in order to help them improve their lives and it makes sense that their focus is on what they are struggling with, but one of the first steps towards improving their lives is refocusing their attention away from their struggles and onto their successes.
A few years ago, a female tennis player who had been stuck in the middle of the tennis rankings for several seasons switched coaches and began to steadily win matches, moving up within the top five female players in the world. When a reporter asked her coach why she had suddenly become a superstar, he responded, “In the past, her coaches focused on what she could not do, and tried to improve those areas. While her game got better, she would often become frustrated and nervous when on the court and one of her problem areas came up. My approach is very different. We focus on what she can do and work to improve those areas. Then, when she gets into those situations on the court, she is confident and prepared.”
This coach’s method is a hugely important one – in education and in one’s life as well. A “can’t do” attitude or a focus on the negative only helps reinforce those destructive ideas in the mind of the sufferer. So, what are some ways that you can cure that “can’t do” attitude?
Set “Can Do” Goals. Regardless of the disability or struggle, you should identify where you want to be. This way, you can create a step-by-step plan of how to get there. Breaking apart a long-term goal into multiple shorter steps can help the task seem more manageable. For instance, if you would like to declutter your home, that might trigger the “I just can’t do it. There is too much. I don’t know where to start” response. Instead, break the goal into smaller pieces: “First, I am going to declutter my living room. I am going to start with the bookshelves and then move to the newspapers and magazines next to the couch.” Once you accomplish that small step, you can move to the next room.
Concentrate on the positive. So much of what we hear on the news and in the world around us is negative. The key to success is focusing on the positive in our daily interactions with others. For those dealing with disabilities, focus on the things you can do, for instance, people with ADHD are generally very creative and out of the box thinkers. Instead of focusing on the difficulty they have paying attention, those with ADHD should channel their energy into their creativity. Even something as small as an intentional smile can set you on the right path. Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that smiling can actually make you less anxious and self-doubting. When you use the muscles in your face to smile, those muscles trigger hormones in your brain that make you more relaxed and happy.
Surround yourself with support. If the people around you don’t believe in you, there is no way that you will learn to believe in yourself. Therefore, separate yourself from “friends” who put you down or underestimate your abilities. Instead, cultivate friendships with people who support you and your strengths. If your friends and family believe that you can do it, eventually you will start believing it too!
Fake it until you make it. Often, success is about going through the motions no matter how many times you have failed in the past. Regardless of whether you believe you are going to succeed, you “talk the talk and walk the walk” as if you will succeed. You have a much better chance at success if you attack the problem with gusto and confidence than if you do not approach it at all.