Mind Hack: Can’t vs. Don’t


Image of brain, can't, don'tSelf-talk is a big topic of conversation with people who are chasing goals. The common cliches of “keep it positive” have gone away, and a new kind of picture is emerging. Self-talk does matter, but it matters in unexpected ways.

Oliver Burkeman of¬†The Guardian¬†recently discussed an interesting change that helps keep you focused on those productive promises you’ve made to yourself:

Researchers at two US business schools wanted to examine the effects of self-talk employing the phrase “I can’t” versus the phrase “I don’t”, in the context of personal health goals. Suppose it’s time for your weekly kick-boxing class, but the sofa looks inviting, so you try to talk yourself into action. Does it really matter if you say, “I can’t miss my weekly class”, or, “I don’t miss my weekly class”? You wouldn’t have thought so, but according to the experiments, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, it does. In one, students seeking to eat more healthily were instructed to use either “I can’t” or “I don’t” each time they confronted a temptation. Upon leaving, they were offered a token of appreciation for taking part: a chocolate bar or a granola bar. Of those instructed to resist temptation using “I can’t”, 39% went for the healthier choice; of those using “I don’t”, the figure was 64%.

Be sure to read the whole article about “empowered refusal” here:

This column will change your life: don’t say ‘I can’t’ if you can say ‘I don’t'”
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/05/this-column-change-life-empowered-refusal

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