The Difference Between "I Can't" And "I Don't"

A recently published study confirms that the way in which you frame a refusal can help determine how successful you'll be with your personal goals.

What's the Latest Development?

A study recently published in Journal of Consumer Research describes experiments in which test subjects who wanted to improve their personal health habits were asked to use one of two phrases when presented with an unhealthy option such as a chocolate bar or an opportunity to miss a workout. Those who used the phrase "I don't" before refusing the temptation ("I don't eat that chocolate bar") chose the healthier alternative far more often than those who used the phrase "I can't" ("I can't eat that chocolate bar").

What's the Big Idea?

It's common knowledge that how we talk to ourselves can impact our lives in many ways, and the differences in that impact can be measured literally to the word. Writer Oliver Burkeman says, "The 'can't' framing implies an external restraint, which feels disempowering (even if you imposed the restraint on yourself)....To say that you 'don't' do something, by contrast, suggests autonomy, as well as long-term commitment." He adds, "According to cliché, learning to say 'no' is the key to seizing control of life. But how you say no matters, too."

Photo Credit:

Read it at The Guardian

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less