Another simple as swapping the word “can’t”

      Another factor that can cause procrastination is the way we view ourselves—our self-image. Researchers at the University of Houston and Boston College found that our self-talk can have a huge impact on our behavior and whether or not we do something. This effect is so pronounced, in fact, that the researchers discovered that something as simple as swapping the word “can’t” with “don’t” can have a huge impact on our actions. It can make the difference between whether we take a good action—say, declining that chocolate cake or going to the gym—or taking a not-so-good action—say, eating that slice of chocolate cake or skipping the gym yet again. While the words “can’t” and “don’t” may seem largely interchangeable, they actually have a difference in psychological impact. Telling yourself (or others) that you “can’t” do something impresses upon the mind that you would very much like to do the thing in question but you’re denying yourself of it. That you’re exerting willpower, such as if someone tells themselves (or others) that “I can’t skip gym”.

 The word “don’t”, on the other hand, is far more empowering. Imagine somebody saying “I don’t drink alcohol” or “I don’t eat unhealthy foods” or “I don’t skip gym.” By using the word “don’t”, you impress upon the mind the idea that you’re not the kind of person who skips gym or eats junk food. Still not convinced? At the end of the study, the researchers offered participants the choice of either a granola bar or chocolate bar as a token of appreciation for their involvement.

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The participants who had been taught to say “I don’t” were almost twice as likely (64 percent versus 39 percent) to choose the healthier option than the “I can’t” participants. Likewise, it was found that participant working towards a goal related to health and fitness were eight times more likely to take a bad action (such as skip the gym or eat some junk food) if they told themselves “I can’t”. While eight out of ten of those using the “I don’t” strategy were able to resist such temptations, that figure dropped to a staggering one out of ten when it came to those using the “I can’t” strategy. So if ever you catch yourself telling yourself (or others) that you can’t have this or do that, simply swap it for a “I don’t do this.”


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