I am a professor at an exclusive private academy. The school crest reads QUOD NON POSSIM FACERE. Nobody there understands Latin, though, so all the students wear a yellow t-shirt with the slogan I COULD NEVER DO THAT. There are no sports teams, because nobody comes to practice. There are no clubs, because nobody ever shows up. Everyone is single, because nobody ever asks anyone out. There are no grades, because nobody ever submits any work for grading. It’s a pretty easy job, really. I didn’t expect my workload to be so light, because enrollment is so high. In fact, the student body consists of almost everyone in the entire world.
It’s positively weird how many people will respond “I could never do that” to almost any topic. It’s right up there with “It’s the texture” as a reason why someone hates a certain food. Run a marathon? I could never do that. Public speaking? I could never do that. Pick any common resolution off a list and carry it out? I could never do that. Why do we do this? Take skydiving for example. Both of my brothers are really into it. Obviously, a lot of people find this too scary to try (including me). Why not just say, “Really? Tell me more”? It’s not like the default option is for someone to go around strapping parachutes onto people’s backs and stuffing them into planes if they don’t say the magic phrase “ICOULDNEVERDOTHAT!” quickly enough.
I think anyone can do anything if the desire is there. In fact, most people can probably do most things even when the desire is not there. Learning to drive was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I failed my driver’s test twice, once for running a red light and once for driving on the wrong side of the road. I finally passed at age 29, after my third learner’s permit was about to expire. It’s an incredibly complex skill that requires navigating among hundreds of distracted people who can turn you into a giant fireball just because they can’t stop texting for ten minutes. Hundreds of millions of people drive every single day and completely forget how hard it is.
We think it’s too hard to learn a foreign language, even though we did it effortlessly in infancy.
We think it’s too hard to save money, even when all the best things in life are free.
We think it’s too hard to get fit, even though being unfit makes everything harder.
We think it’s too hard to get organized, even though being disorganized makes everything harder.
The simple fix for this knee-jerk reaction is to recognize it. Instead of shutting down strange new ideas, we can just pause for a moment and test out the idea. “COULD I do that?” “What would it be like if I did that?” No commitment required – we can take a mental sample of infinite numbers of things, learning from the experiences of others.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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