“I can’t” means “I won’t”

I can't = I won'tThe criminal thinker is unwilling to do anything that is boring or disagreeable! This statement is considered an axiom among corrections professionals. The criminal thinker has boundless energy and interest in activities that are exciting, interesting or fun. But when it comes to basic responsibilities and actions that don’t result in an immediate payoff they lose interest or give up. The words “I can’t” become the mantra for the criminal thinker.

  • “I can’t get a job because I have a record.”
  • “I can’t stop using drugs because I already tried a hundred times before”
  • “I can’t go back to school because I’m too old”
  • “I can’t do these assignments because they are too hard”

In reality, “I can’t” means “I won’t.” In correctional treatment programs we often hear from offenders that they tried to stay sober, or they tried to get a job or they tried to finish a task on time, but something or someone prevented them from accomplishing the task. Our common response to criminal thinkers who “try” to do something is to stop trying and start doing.  Stop trying to get a job and do whatever it takes to get a job. Stop trying to stay sober and do whatever it takes to stay sober. Do whatever it takes to complete the responsible task at hand. And, by the way, you don’t know what it takes to live responsibly so ask for help and follow advice!

Pushing oneself to do the difficult is the key to criminal freedom. In fact, the best advice for someone early in the criminal thinking change process is to focus on the actions that they like the least.  If getting up early and doing house chores is the most disagreeable task at hand, that should be the first thing on the list to complete!  Criminal thinking change is an exercise in opposites.  A criminal thinker must begin to turn their thinking around 180 degrees. Instead of blaming others for their plight, they need to blame themselves. When doing something responsible seems boring, that is the time to perform the task.  Instead of saying “I can’t” say “I must.”  We don’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it. Responsibility, maturity, and growth are about taking consistent action especially during those times when we don’t feel like doing them. A babies behavior is based entirely on its feelings, mature men and women’s behavior is directed by responsible thinking and rational beliefs.  “Tell me you don’t feel like doing something right now and I’ll tell you that now is the time to do it then!”

Once a habit is formed by doing the disagreeable it becomes easier to do. If we make a consistent effort towards a responsible goal, its achievement begins to become a reality. The serenity prayer is a good source of inspiration for this thinking error of Lack of Effort.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Visit the CriminalThinking.net website for a free worksheet on correcting the thinking error “The “I Can’t Attitude.”

"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."