Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, confirms that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Today, I want to discuss the difference between “can” and “will” and apply Dr. Newberg’s notion that a single word, will (not can) in fact change your level of success.
His research goes on to state that “Our thoughts become our words, and therefore our language.” I would like to add that our words also become our actions.
I work with leaders at all different stages of their career and a common thread when it comes to change is what I state as your own individual Power of Commitment. The level of success when focused on accomplishing a task depends on which part of the brain you ignite during the commitment process.
You see, our mind is made up of three parts: Cognition, affection, and conation. This is considered the “trilogy of the mind” or the “theory of mind.”
When a client identifies a way to make progress in a specific area, often times they say with excitement “I can do that!” and my response is an equally enthusiastic “yes, you can!” followed by “but will you?”
The difference between “I can” and “I will” is that they ignite different parts of the brain – the cognitive vs the conative. They seem interchangeable yet there’s a lot more power in one than the other. Example:
“I can ask my top 3 clients for a referral.”
I will ask my top 3 clients for a referral.”
“Can” identifies capability and uses the cognitive part of the brain that taps into your intellectual aptitude. It is your belief that you are capable of accomplishing the task at hand.
“Will” identifies action and ignites the conative part of the brain that taps into your intentions. Conation is an important factor of the mind because it contains the instincts and innate attributes that define your natural method of operation. When we work from our natural style, we are more productive, more comfortable and more successful. We use the conative part of our brain when answering 3 key questions:
- what are my intentions and goals?
- what are my plans and commitments?
- what am I going to do?
The third part of the brain, the affective, is where your desires come from, and forms our “I want” statements. This part of the brain is used first, a pre-requisite, before the other two parts of the brain are engaged because we have to desire something before we assess our capability or choice in how to achieve it.
When you desire change and want results, switch from “I can” to “I will” and watch your success level rise!