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A strong statement which struck a chord with me when I heard it some years ago and it still rings in my ears whenever I catch myself saying “I can’t do that.”

The first time I became conscious of uttering those words was whilst watching a video of people climbing a 30ft pole, little wider than a telegraph pole. Once at the top they were jumping off and trying to grab hold of a trapeze to catch their fall. Most missed it and swung helplessly in their harness until they were lowered to the ground. I’m sure that was a deliberate ploy by the organisers as a further test of people’s faith!

It looked terrifying to me and the first thing I thought was “I couldn’t do that”. Of course, those words meant that I’d given myself no choice but to prove that I could! I signed up there and then before I had chance to talk myself out of it.

Recently, I was reminded of the power of these words when my Personal Trainer informed me that I’d be climbing a run of steps in the park in what he called a pyramid format. This basically meant I had to climb the steps in stages, returning to the bottom step after each repetition. I’m guessing there were about 200 steps in total, of varying heights and my legs tired quickly. At the point where I knew I still had a couple more repetitions to make I was asked to complete the run as hard as I could. I muttered “I can’t” under my breath, more to myself than in protest as I’m not a quitter by nature and had every intention of completing the task at hand.

My words weren’t lost on him, however and he questioned how I could doubt my ability to take the steps as hard as I could (he hadn’t said as hard as HE could). He was right of course and when I thought the end was in sight I was able to pick up my pace considerably. Moreover, when I thought we were done and my legs were spent I was asked to climb a different set of concrete steps 3 times to finish. I found that really hard and I did it, proving once again that it’s mind over matter.

Perhaps it’s easier to spot the self-doubt when faced with an extreme physical challenge because if we throw in the towel then we’ll know about it. In the workplace, however the effects are less obvious. You might recognise it as over-deliberation on tasks or procrastination where projects drag out and deadlines are missed. Inevitably, whenever I questioned my people on progress it was rarely down to a lack of competence. More often it was because they doubted their ability to deliver on the project successfully which usually meant that they put off getting started in the first place.

So, what isn’t getting done in your work place due to a lack of self-belief?

Remember, thinking you can’t means that you must.

Go on then…

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