What “I Can’t” Usually Means


There used to be one phrase that I used to use as a shield against any kind of improvement.

A lot of people use the phrase and perhaps you use it as well.

That phrase is “I can’t.”

It is so easy to use this phrase, and I have learned that whenever you use it, there’s at least a 90% chance that you really mean “I won’t” or “I don’t want to.”

But because your ego always wants to be happy, you “qualify” the reasons why you don’t want to do something unless you absolutely need to or why you straight up will not do something by saying “I can’t.”

Most of the dumbest excuses a person can dream up come right after the phrase “I can’t.”

“I can’t make a lot of money because I am inexperienced/there are no good jobs around here.”

“I can’t get with attractive members of the opposite sex because I’m not attractive myself/the place I live doesn’t have attractive people in it.”

“I can’t improve in this area of my life because I am too young/old.”

You know the story. You say that you “can’t” do something and then you usually make up some kind of excuse as to why you can’t do it that sounds very convincing to you.

The phrase “I can’t” usually sets up a lot of excuses.

One of the best things you can do is at least be honest about why you “can’t” do something.

To do this, you need to understand that when you say that you “can’t” do something, it usually means that you do not want to do it or that you refuse to do it.

Then you’ll back those up with a different set of reasons.

Determining whether you just don’t want to do something or if you refuse to do something is useful for exploring the excuses behind saying “I can’t” when it comes to doing something that you need to do.

“I can, I just don’t want to”

This is what most people mean when they say that they “can’t” do something.

When most people say that they can’t do something, it usually means that they can do it, they just choose not to do it because they do not want to deal with whatever sacrifices may be involved.

Knowing what sacrifices are involved in an undertaking is crucial in everything that you do.

The most common sacrifice by far is time. No matter who you are or what you decide to be, we all have 24 hours in a day and that’s it.

So if you do not have the time to do something, you might need to explore where you are spending your time.

If you “can’t find a partner” because you “don’t have the time,” its probably because you are wasting your time in a different area.

For example, I spend about 2 hours a day playing video games during my downtime. About 2 hours before I go to bed, I play these video games to relax.

I am fully aware that I am doing this at the expense of all kinds of stuff, finding a partner being one of these.

Therefore, if I really want to find a partner, I would spend those two hours hunting for partners instead of relaxing and playing video games, watching stuff, or any other thing I do during my downtime.

If you can do something but don’t want to do it, that is fine, but your reason why you do not want to do it better be solid and you better be very damn aware of what you are giving up.

For example, I don’t drive for Uber and Lyft at night. I can do it, but I choose not to.

Why is this?

I don’t feel as safe driving passengers around at night as I do during the day. I also know that the likelihood of being stopped by law enforcers for any reason they want to make up and get a ticket or a fine is also higher when driving at night.

This may seem like an excuse for some, but writing at night instead of driving is a much better use of my time and is much less stressful for me.

It’s the same reason why I play video games during my downtime from 11 at night until 2 in the morning instead of going out.

I’m not about to hunt for partners until 1 or 2 in the morning then drive back home and possibly get pulled over and get a ticket for no reason at all (this happens much more than you think in the United States).

Going out to hunt for partners also costs money. I know I’d need to pay the doorman in some places and get at least one drink in other places out of obligation. And since I don’t want to drive to said places myself, I’d need to ride in an Uber or Lyft myself. That also costs money.

And yet, I know that I am giving that opportunity up for relaxation. Because I know what I am sacrificing, I have a better sense of control.

The line between valid reason and excuse is drawn when you know what you are giving up, are satisfied with what you are giving up, and most importantly, are being as objective as possible with what you are giving up.

I “can’t” find a partner because of my appearance, value, or whatever. I can find a partner whenever I want and I know what it takes. I would just rather relax instead of hunt for one, and I enjoy that for now.

Think of other situations like this one where you know what you are sacrificing and are at least content with it.

“I won’t do it”

This is the second thing that people mean when they say that they “can’t” do something.

If you can do something but choose not to do it, it usually means that you can do it if it is absolutely necessary.

For example, if I really need to save up a ton of money, I’ll do Uber and Lyft driving at night. I may not like it, I might be giving up time spent writing at home, but if I really need to get paid to save up for something, then I’ll do it.

If I’ve gone a significantly long time without sex and it is clearly affecting my performance in other areas, I’m going to need to do a little more hunting for partners instead of relaxing.

I can do these things, but I prefer to do other things.

If you absolutely will not do something, it means that there is no chance of you doing it under any circumstance because you know that it is not worth the potential pain that you might feel or because it goes against a principle or significant value.

There is no compromise when it comes to things that you will not do.

A lot of people say that they can’t so something when they really mean that they won’t. But saying that you won’t do something because it is too painful or goes against what you stand for can come across as rude.

If you say that you “can’t” do something because you simply will not do it, be honest about it with yourself and others. It will make things much easier. You’ll develop strong boundaries for yourself and others will respect your boundaries.


Be very careful when you say that you “can’t” do something, because it usually means that you do not want to so what it is you say you “can’t” do or it means that you simply will not do something.

Take the time to explore these reasons and confront exactly why you truly can’t do something. You might not be willing to sacrifice what is necessary to do what you “can’t” do.


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