I Could Never

How often do you say some version of “I could never ….?” I know that I hear it regularly. I just completed my annual trip with my Dad – this time it was for 9 days out west and included an Amtrak train ride, 2,500 miles of driving (roughly the distance from Raleigh, NC to Los Angeles), and five states (Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota). I was sharing some of our experiences with a friend, and she asked, “Did you have hotel reservations made in advance?” If you know me, you know the answer was no, and in response my friend said, “I could never go on a trip without having my hotel reservations made in advance.” Hmmmm, “I could never.”

What are some of the other “I could never” statements that we make or hear every day?

I could never quit my job, even though I hate it.

I could never start my own business.

I could never tell my boss or manager what I’m really thinking.

I could never speak up with a new idea in a meeting when most of the group is supporting one idea.

I could never ask for what I want.

I could never take a trip to Europe.

I could never travel alone.

I could never be really honest with a close friend.

I could never ….

Are you getting the idea?

Somehow, we have come to believe that it’s okay to say “I could never,” but the truth is that when you say that phrase or others like it you have closed off the possibilities and likely blocked your own way to change.

I get it – “I could never” feels safe and comfortable – but the truth is that none of us really know what is truly an “I could never” situation. In fact, you don’t know your true “I could never” unless and until you experience that situation. None of us is perfect – that’s a fact – and yet we only find our truest limitations when we just do it or at least try it—sometimes more than once and sometimes for a longer period of time.

I just finished reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, which tells the story and lessons of a man who not only survived the concentration and work camps of World War II, but experienced and learned deep lessons about choices, attitude and overcoming what you thought you could never overcome or survive. He shares many examples of people who – prior to the concentration camp – had thought they could never do many things, and yet they did just those things when the circumstances required it.

None of us know what we could never unless and until we attempt it and give it and ourselves full opportunity to find out. Imagine how many people throughout history thought that they could never and yet, they ultimately did what they said they could never do. That is the place of innovation, of shift, of chance, of impact – when you think you could never, but you do it anyway. You try it out, whether because you’re bold or you perceive that you have no choice. In truth, you always have a choice, but when you say “I could never” you make it more difficult to exercise the choices that are always before you.

Saying that you could never do something or restrain from doing something is virtually ensuring that you are right. If all you want is to be right, then keep saying “I could never,” play small, be comfortable, avoid risks and let things stay mostly the way they are, including your experiences.

However, that’s not what leaders say or do. As a leader, I encourage you to eliminate “I could never” from your vocabulary and to embrace instead either “I will” or at least “I might be able to.” This shift will certainly change your perspective, your situation and your possibility, and that’s what leaders do.

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  1. I learned a long time ago never to say never!

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