Cant vs. Dont - Don't is better

How to use “Semantic framing” to keep absolute focus on your top goals

I was reading a great research piece in the Journal of Consumer Research the other day about “Semantic framing“.

The primary reason was to keep up with not gaining all the weight that I had lost over the last year or so. I found out about the power of “I don’t vs. I cant”.

This is a really neat hack that I am using to avoid certain foods that are really bad for me, which I used to be “addicted to”. Specifically I was a sucker for Reese’s peanut butter cups. I had to get the fix each day after my lunch, which blew all my diet from my breakfast and lunch.

I have never had coffee in my life and tried tea a few times only to give up. I “don’t” drink coffee.

So, giving up things is not unnatural or out of habit for me.

Both the authors of this research have concluded that saying “I don’t” is more empowering for self-talk towards goal-behavior than “I can’t”.

For goal-directed behavior, meaning if you want to achieve a specific goal, using the word, I don’t do X is more powerful and gives you a sense of being in control than I can’t do X.

Cant vs. Dont - Don't is better
Can’t vs. Don’t – Don’t is better

For example, just me starting to say “I don’t eat Reese’s, has helped me avoid the chocolate 21 days in a row”. 45 more days and I can comfortably kick the Reese’s habit for good, based on the the 66 days to habit formation research.

I started to wonder where else I could use this and as I have mentioned before, I tend to do a pretty bad job of working on a project for extended period’s of time. I tend to have “shiny object syndrome”, which causes me to lose focus on the one thing that matters many times in a project.

That’s one of my resolutions to fix. I think I am already on the path to fix that since I have successfully figured out the exercise routine I need, the food and the fact that I have been writing for 9 months without missing more than 4 days.

This new hack is a trick in the book that I plan to use for more time to keep focus on the projects that matter, but saying to myself and others “I don’t”.

Instead of “I can’t make time for a new advisory position”, I am saying “I don’t have time”.

Less endearing to the receiver, more blunt, but more effective.

Well, maybe now I have to work on the empathy part.

The real use of this new tool of “semantic framing” is around focus on projects.

“I don’t work on more than 1 project at a time” is more empowering to my mind and prevent it from accepting multiple projects and failing at them all.

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