Written by Priscilla Tallman
I cannot even.
I just cannot even.
I mean. I can’t.
We’ve all heard these expressions. Goodness, we’ve all said them. Tiny little word jabs we use throughout the day to express our disbelief in someone, some thing or some event. Social media has made our ability to can or can’t such a toss away expression anymore, we’ve forgotten those two little words (and the extra ones we tag on for dramatic emphasis) are rooted deeply in our ability to accomplish something.
I mean, can you even? Can you just even?
Yeah, you can.
One of my favorite sayings from my competitive sports playing days is one I stole from my husband, and he stole from his college volleyball coach. It’s super simple. Say it with me:
Any time a ball was out of play or shanked, his coach would yell “Can you? Can you?” In the middle of a heated game or intense practice, no one had time to answer. You either could, or you died trying. Once we get out of our 20’s or we stop playing something competitively or we stop training for a specific event or sport and begin training for life, we start making excuses about our ability. We start not being able to even – way too often these days.
I get that. I really do.
I have to scale or modify prescribed workouts on a very consistent basis. Some days my body tells me “no” all together. I have 20 years of competitive volleyball on this body and sometimes I wake up at the crack of dawn, peek at the workout and say to myself “I cannot even.” Three little words before the sun comes up that determine my ability in the gym and as a result, my ability and attitude all day.
So, I changed my husbands’ coach’s mantra a bit to fit my life. I switched the words around and took away the question mark – that left these two words: “You can.”
Imagine beginning your workout, your day with those two words. You can scale or modify the workout. You can do yoga instead if your body says “no” to the weight room. You can just walk up to the bar and lift it without telling yourself that you can’t a thousand times before you get there. You can take care of your body, your mind, your spirit and your emotions without sacrificing one for the other. You can use this phrase to encourage other women in your life without compromising your own ability.
This phrase is now officially my favorite sports (and life) phrase of all time. As a teammate, I love pushing my tennis partner to take a few more steps to get that stray tennis ball “you can, you can!” In coaching, I love encouraging young athletes to try another time when they are ready to throw in the towel “you can, you can.” When my kids tell me they can’t find anything to pack for their lunches, I say “you can, you can.”
Our days are a series of choices. Sure, there is some level of serendipity, spontaneity and even chaos to any twenty-four hour period, but we can still choose how we approach the day and how we speak to ourselves about what we are able to do. Choosing to say to ourselves “you can,” before the world has a chance to tell us otherwise is strategic and powerful.
Guess what? You can be strategic and powerful. Now what?