Sunday, September 19, 2010

Understanding Cans & Wills

Have you ever noticed the frustration that is caused by confusing 'cans' and 'wills'? Some people assume that because a person 'can' do something they 'will' do something... like kids can clean their rooms, so they will clean their rooms; a colleague can help you, but won't; someone says they will do a task but then can't. Do you notice any stress in your life from this phenomenon?

Cans and Wills

So what is a 'can' and what is a 'will'? Just to be sure we're on the same page...

Can means that a person has the ability, power, or skill or has the means and qualifications to perform.

Will means that a person has a wish or desire to perform, or they'd like to, may decide to, or attempt to perform.

There's a BIG difference between the two. There is also a lot of frustration around cans and wills when we aren't on the same page.


In my last newsletter, I talked about the brain's natural instinct for detecting errors. When those errors are recognized, the brain shuts down its cognitive area and goes into reactive mode. This is where emotions and physiological responses take over to 'protect' you from the error.

One tiny problem... the brain will detect an 'error' when its expectation is different from what occurs in reality. You will feel it when your expectations aren't met. Think about how you feel when you don't expect a car to pull out in front of you and it does... or when you expected your kids to clean their room and they didn't... or you expected a team member to complete a task and it isn't done. All of these 'errors' can cause you to react in a negative (and sometimes 'thought-less' manner) because your autonomic self-protection system has been triggered. Your brain shuts down cognitive function and sends that energy to your muscles and other organs to quickly respond to the perceived error or threat.

One problem... in reaction/error mode, the brain doesn't know is that this really isn't a threat to your physical well-being.

So, what kind of strife arises in your life when the cans and wills aren't aligned?

Let's look at some statements that you may have heard by well-meaning people that can cause this misalignment. Have you ever heard this one?

"You can do anything you want to do in life." While meant to be motivational, it's a lie. No where on the planet is there a place where you can do whatever you want to do in life. There are always consequences and choices that have to be made within certain physical or mental parameters. Now, you are free try to do anything, but you may not have the talents or skills to accomplish what you'd like to accomplish.

When the can isn't aligned with the will, there will be frustration, discontentment, dissatisfaction and little enthusiasm.

When the will isn't aligned with the can, there will be defeat, discouragement, and even resentment.

Have you felt this in your life?