What Is Your “I Can’t”?

There is fascinating research about people proclaiming they can’t do something and how, once they have said this, they really do have a challenge accomplishing or completing said task because they have already made up their mind that they cannot do it. They have already defined what it is that is holding them back: “I wish I could run, but I’m bad at it”. “I hate math, I’m bad at it.” “I admire people that do (fill in the blank), I could never do that”.

I wrote previously about studies about young girls in math and in sports that require hand-eye-coordination like baseball/softball and how girls self-select out before they have ever even tried.

This past weekend was a weekend I’ve been waiting for for an entire year because it was one of my favorite weekends of the year last year. On Friday I took the beautiful drive to Taos Ski Valley where I spent the night in the ski village before the Bull of the Woods trail run Saturday morning. After that race, I drove to a completely different part of the state for a road cycling race on the Pueblo of Acoma, the Tour de Acoma. Both races use all funds for local not-for-profits in areas I care deeply about – natural (public) lands, trails, open spaces, environment & and cultural resources for Acoma Pueblo.

This year around, I wasn’t feeling nearly as confident as I did last year going into either race. It’s been a tough year juggling full time work, PhD studies, training, puppy raising, family and friends… life. I know this is not just me, we all juggle so many things every day, all the competing priorities, demands on our limited time, while we all have our own inner voices telling us where we could be (should be) doing more, where and how we should be better, should devote more time. 

I went into the weekend reminding myself why I love trail running and cycling, of how trail running saved me from a dark path when the rug was pulled from under me and all I knew was self-hatred. I went into the weekend excited to just do what I love, with beautiful local communities in this tremendous state where I am so fortunate to live. I reminded myself that, despite my feeling to always want to do more, of failing everything because I want to do everything and do it perfectly, I have been putting all the work in for the past few years – at the very least I could complete both races, and I needed to stop telling myself that I couldn’t do it.

Saturday morning my sister and I were up early beginning to prep for our race, when we heard a strange sound outside our windows. After a few seconds of both listening, we both realized: “it’s the marathon going past!” We looked out our cozy ski lodge balcony and saw all the people starting their ascent out of the ski village and up into the surrounding mountains. They were about a half mile in (of 26 miles) and, while you could already clearly see the different abilities, the human determination and grit of every single person was palpable. Every single person has their own story, their own reason for why they were there, at 7am on a Saturday morning in 35 degree weather, about to climb multiple thousands of feet in a race that starts at 9,200 feet elevation. Every single person there was doing something they likely once thought impossible. Maybe they still did as they set out. But they decided to quiet that inner voice telling them they couldn’t do it, and did it anyway.

I immediately was reminded, as I watched the people at the back of the pack heading up the mountain, that anyone can truly do anything they put their mind to – it’s a matter of wanting it, of deciding you can truly do the “impossible”. Sure, there are a confluence of variables that ultimately all add up to allowing someone to accomplish a goal, whether it’s running a mountain trail marathon, completing a work project, or learning a new hobby, but the motivating factor, the one variable that must be there is the decision to say: “I will get this”.

Sunday was the same thing. Every single person in every distance of the Tour de Acoma was there to challenge themselves mentally and physically, setting out to do something they perhaps once thought they would never be able to do. Seeing all the extended families from the Acoma pueblo (and possibly surrounding pueblos) who were completing the Tour de Acoma together was one of the most heart-warming, motivating experiences. Families striving for goals together is so beautiful to me. Again, all of the racers on Sunday had smiles on their faces, determination and grit in their hearts and heads, and were challenging themselves to complete an incredibly difficult feat. Everyone carries their own story, their own hurt, their own self-doubt, their own decision to do this for themselves in spite all of that. 

This reminder over the weekend was motivating, humbling, and brought a connected feeling of humanity and a shared human experience, that I sadly all too often forget in my day-to-day life. We really are all just trying to do the best we can, making the most of this thing called life.

Whatever it is you have told yourself you cannot do, for whatever reason, I challenge you to do it anyway. Give it your best shot. Remind yourself why you want to do it, remind yourself that all the reasons you tell yourself you cannot do it are self-proclaimed (perhaps societally proclaimed) and that you can do it anyway if you choose to.

There is no impossible – only choices. Choose to do what you tell yourself is impossible.

Run on, my friends.


One thought on “What Is Your “I Can’t”?

  1. This is so true! At times I force myself to do something that I feel is right for me, because a voice inside my head says that I’m crazy to try… I felt this way also when I started writing a blog. What helped me a lot was talking about my fears with someone I trust 🙂 Thank you for sharing!


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