I have a different view of the words “can” and “can’t” than most people do. In particular, I believe that there are subtle yet important differences in the connotations those words can take on in different contexts. Sure, most people “can” pull a hot pan out of the stove without an oven mitt, but the majority of those wouldn’t want to, because it is painful and harmful. It’s just not a thing they’re going to do. I want to focus on today is the idea of things you can do, but realistically you won’t do for whatever reason – not even necessarily because of a conscious choice, but because it just… won’t happen.

This distinction can be critical when dealing with things like organization or study habits. As I’ve touched on in previous articles, trying to hold yourself to a standard you won’t realistically meet is little more than an exercise in frustration, and is ultimately fruitless. Becoming a new person overnight is exceptionally difficult, and if you fail you may be discouraged from making more positive changes in the future. Better to make a smaller, more unconventional change that has a higher chance of actually bringing you closer to your goals.

The particular mental snag I think most people hit is that they want to project a particular image, and it is that image that comes to mind when we’re unsatisfied with ourselves. It is generally not encouraged to aspire to be a C average student with a meh social life who prefers playing video games to studying. Most people would rather fantasize about getting straight As and having mind-blowingly awesome times with awesome people every single weekend. Maybe some people do have lives that look like that, but it’s probably fewer than you’d think. And those people still have other parts of themselves that they aren’t happy with.

You don’t have to fit a round peg into a square hole. Sometimes you have to drill the hole yourself, and the end result may be unconventional or even ugly, but I believe this is worth it in the end.

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