A Mindset Hack to Unlock Your Potential

Have you ever heard the saying, “Can’t never could”? It turns out there’s more wisdom to unlock your potential in that little nugget than you might realize.

How often do you find yourself thinking or saying, “I can’t”

Maybe it’s that you can’t do a skill or go to some place or have a certain experience for whatever reason.

I’m sure your mind has a reason or two, but have you ever stopped to question, though, just how accurate that statement might be?

I used to think:

 “I can’t run a clinic.” Now I have a successful private practice.

“There’s no way I could run five miles. I can’t do it.” I’ve done six (so far). 

“I can’t build a website.” I’ve built three.

I am living proof that “can’t” does not have to hinder all areas of your life. It took me a long time to learn that, though. I spent too much time believing the can’ts, without question, taking them as fact. Learn from my mistakes. These negative thoughts stop your forward momentum. Don’t let them. 

The Problem with Can’t

The thoughts about what we can’t do come from a number of places – the internalized voices of others, disbelief about our capabilities, lack of trust in our capacity to grow and learn, lack of example or lack of knowledge that it’s even theoretically possible, wherever they are coming from they have the same effect: our brains shut down and don’t even try.

Let me say that again. When we say “I can’t _____,” our brains hear:

“Oh, that’s not possible. Don’t bother trying to question, problem-solve, or figure out a way to make it happen. It’s not possible. It’s a waste of time.”

Because our brains are designed to be efficient, they don’t like to waste time (or, more accurately, energy), so they stop even trying. The result? You can’t, in fact, do it.

That result, though, is not necessarily inevitable. What if that can’t isn’t a fact? What if, like my examples, it could be changed into a can?

Changing Can’ts Into Cans

To help make that happen, try this little tweak. Instead of saying “I can’t” say “How can I.” 

“I can’t ask for what I want” becomes How can I ask for what I want?”

I can’t eat healthy” becomes “How can I eat healthy?”

I can’t write a blog post” becomes “How can I get this post written?” 

I can’t get through all these emails” becomes “How can I get through all these emails? I know! Maybe I can sort by email address.” 

All of sudden, you’ve thrown a problem at that beautiful brain of yours, and it loves to solve problems.

Instead of shutting down, game over, the wheels will start spinning, and you may just find a solution that opens up a whole new avenue for you.

Give it shot!

You can! Say it again… you can! 

If you want to learn more about your mind works and how to make it work for you rather than against you, explore our offerings at Peak Mind. Our ASCEND program has all of the information and tools to help transform you, your mind, and your life, wrapped up in one awesome package. All you have to do is click the link and dedicate a little time to your personal development.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Henry Ford


The Brain Science Behind Fear

Understanding the science of fear and how the brain interacts with threats is relevant now more than ever.

As you know, cases of COVID-19 are beginning to rise in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world, and naturally, many people are experiencing some fear. Will I get sick? Will my family get sick? How bad will our case be if we do get sick? These are all scary questions to contemplate right now.

Outside of the pandemic, concerns of terror attacks, political turmoil, and the health of the planet, compound everyday irrational fears like a fear of flying or spiders.

The Brain Science of Fear

Fear is an interesting thing. It’s awful to experience fear, but it’s actually very adaptive. It’s our minds’ best tool to do its #1 job: keep us safe and alive.

Out of all the brain regions, one of the key areas of the brain involved in fear is the amygdala. This area of the brain is evolutionarily old, it runs nearly automatically, and it goes into overdrive in situations that are unfamiliar to us. Many of you know this area as being responsible for your fight or flight response. 

When this area of your brain lights up due to a perceived dangerous situation, it can cause your heart rate to increase, blood pressure to rise, and the release of stress hormones. Repeatedly having your amygdala triggered can cause quite a bit of discomfort or even lead to anxiety disorders. 

Sounds a lot like what’s happening right now, doesn’t it?

The amygdala LOVES familiarity. Routine. Predictability. These characteristics are a signal of safety. So, when things get unfamiliar, unpredictable, when we deviate from our routine, the amygdala flips the panic switch, makes our heart rate go up, and leads to the fear and anxiety response all of us are so familiar with.

Now here’s the thing. Normally, we would tell you to counter the amygdala’s automatic fear response by using a more deliberative or intentional part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex.

Normally we would ask you to intentionally and systematically appraise your fear to help balance out your thinking. In most cases, that leads us to realize that, even though the situation we’re in seems scary to the amygdala, there really isn’t an actual threat out there. We can sort of rationalize our way into being a bit calmer when we aren’t actually facing dangerous activity. 

Here’s the kicker: there is a real threat these days. The virus is real, and it’s spreading. So, not only is your amygdala on an overdrive roller coaster right now… You’re outside of your normal daily routine, you’re likely feeding it a diet of news and social media, the future seems uncertain…all the things your amygdala HATES. But, your prefrontal cortex can point at actual evidence that a threat exists. 

So now what?!

In times like these, we would still ask you to balance your thinking using deliberate, intentional thought processes. 

The news focuses on extreme, salient cases where people had very bad outcomes because that’s what sells. That’s not an accurate representation of the virus, as a whole. A common-sense approach to the actual threat level is the best we can hope for but it’s hard to drown out the noise.

Dr. Ashley’s post last week touched on the importance of appraising the problem that’s in front of you right now rather than trying to predict the future. People enjoy feeling in control, and when you take the time to appraise the problem, your sense of control will return. 

But beyond that, here’s one more technique you can use: become more of an observer of your own thoughts. Put some psychological distance between you, the core human being that you are, and the thoughts you’re aware of. 

By taking the position of the observer, you’re distancing yourself from the rumination and emotion that can come from our thoughts, particularly when we’re afraid. 

I know that sounds easier said than done, but with dedicated practice, it can be done!

Build Your Psych Strength

At Peak Mind, we are dedicated to helping you build your psych strength. We have free resources, like our podcast as well as digital programs, like ASCEND, our comprehensive psych strength building program. Inside of ASCEND, you’ll develop the skills to see your thoughts as thoughts, rather than getting wrapped up in them – and so much more! This is such an uncertain and difficult time for many people, but psychological research shows us that it is possible to THRIVE through adversity. We want to help you do just that.