Problem Solving Mindset – ‘I Can’t’ vs. ‘How Can I?’

I’m Issuing A Challenge.

I want you to walk from one end of the country to the other end of the country. When your read this sentence what was your first reaction? Many of us would immediately jump to ‘I can’t walk across the country because….‘ . When you think like this you immediately enable a belief system which says you’re incapable of accomplishing the task. Instead of coming up with ideas, you come up with reasons why you can’t. Well I have bad feet, I’m out of shape, I don’t want to do that, it doesn’t make any sense, that’s just way too far for anyone to go.

Let’s Change The Frame.

What if instead of  ‘I can’t’ we looked at it from a how can I perspective? Let’s use the same example. Instead of  I can’t walk across the country we’re now framing it as how can I walk across the country? Instead of coming up with roadblocks, your brain will now focus on things you need to do to make it happen.

For example, when I think how can I walk across the country I start thinking about logistics. What kind of shoes do I need? Where am I going to sleep? How long will it take? My mind is searching for solutions factor to problems that prevent me from moving forward. If I’m thinking well I can’t walk across the country because I don’t know where to go instead I think how can I figure out where to go and then that leads me to a solution. Are you starting to see the power of changing your mindset?

Increase Your Problem Solving Ability.

This piece of information fundamentally changes the way you look at problem solving. It’s a new framework to approaching challenges.  It also helps you decide what’s worth pursuing because it forces you to get more specific. If, in answering how can I walk across the country you realize you have to quit your job – that gives understanding into the possibilities but also the consequences of accomplishing the task. 

So for example if I say challenge you to walk across the country and your natural response is ‘I can’t’, more likely than not it means you don’t want to. That’s fine, however, if we look at it from a how can I mindset we can figure out why we don’t want to do something. This makes it easier to understand and communicate with other people why you don’t want to do tasks as opposed to just saying I can’t.

We Can Do More Than We Think.

This problem solving mindset shift also enables you to do things you thought were impossible. I’ll illustrate with a personal example. I spent a long time thinking about building a business and every obstacle I would run into I would say oh I can’t do that because of this. Once I became familiar with this new concept of how can I instead of I can’t suddenly I was empowered to accomplish a lot more.

One of my biggest hurdles was thinking I couldn’t create a website. As I slowly implemented this how can I mindset, my thoughts changed to how can I build a website? It turns out there is a plethora of free information on the internet. You can find out how to accomplish just about anything. Now, I didn’t learn everything at once but I was able to identify my overall goal and break it into pieces using this strategy. How can I buy a domain name? How can I learn to build a website? So on and so forth. Once I thought this way, I was motivated to find all the resources I needed to do it.

Shifting Your Mindset

The biggest takeaway for you is when you find yourself saying I can’t replace it with how can I? Not every task will be worth pursuing but when you say how can I you at least empower yourself with the option to chase that goal. As with most of the Articles here it’s important to take action. Here’s a few questions to get started. 

  1. What is one thing that you think you can’t do?
  2. How can you accomplish that thing?

If you’re unable to think of an idea here’s one that should apply to most of us. Even if you don’t want to accomplish this goal, it will be a good exercise to get you started thinking in this way.

  1.  I can’t double my salary by next year
  2. How can I double my salary by next year ?

Again, notice the difference in those two sentences. One leaves you instantly feeling defeated. The other focuses you on opportunities. I know this has been slightly repetitive, however, this concept has increased my ability to solve problems so much that I wanted to drive the point home. There are so many opportunities to improve and accomplish things yet, we often stop ourselves before even trying. This is just one mindset change you can make to increase your chances at happiness, stay tuned for more! 

Answer the exercise in the comments:

1. What’s something you want to do but haven’t yet?
2. Ask yourself, how can I accomplish this? Be specific.

Reflect, Take Action, and Enjoy Life

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