“I can” is empowering, while “I do” is life changing. There is a subtle yet powerful difference between those verbs.

“I can” will change your internal reality, will make you believe you are truly able to do it. But it won’t do it for you. It will always remain at the internal level, it won’t reach out.

On the other side, “I do” will modify your surroundings and make things happening. “I do” is the reality itself, not just an internal representation of it.

This is one of the most important, yet widely ignored confusions in the personal development field.

“I Can” traps

I can lose weight.
I can be a millionaire.
I can have a fulfilling relationship.
I can create a fantastic career.
I can change the world.

All those sentences are empowering, but they are not modifying anything. They are just a potential. In fact, they are even less than a potential, they are a trap. The trap of “it’s ok just to say it”. The trap of “ok, I said it, now can somebody please stand up and do it?”. The trap of “I had a revelation and that’s enough”.

Having powerful thoughts and using powerful verbs – and “I do” is a powerful verb – is certainly important, but it’s not enough. It can give you a kickstart, it can motivate you, but it won’t do it. It won’t make it happen, unless you switch to the “I do” level.

“I Do” thrills

I am losing weight.
I’m becoming a millionaire.
I’m creating a fulfilling relationship.
I’m building a fantastic career.
I am changing the world, starting with myself.

Notice the difference? It’s not about the fact that you can do all those things, but about actually doing them. Notice the change in your emotions while reading this? The “I can” sentences are giving you self-confidence, clarity and perhaps some motivation boost. But the “I do” sentences are giving you the thrills.

And this is where all the fun is, at the thrill level. All the connection and joy of life is taking place at the “I do” level. All the rest – including the “I can” preparation – is just a scaffold to reach this thrill level. Once you got there, is not important anymore.

From “I Can” to “I Do”

How many times you’ve been stuck at the “I can” level? How many times you wrote powerful and motivating sentences but never actually did something? How many times you visualized your goals, set up milestones, allocated resources only to see the dust covering everything because you didn’t do anything to move things forward?

Switching from “I can” to “I do” is difficult. Here’s why:

“I Can” is comfortable, “I Do” is riskier

I can keeps you in the comfort zone, it won’t move you in any direction. I can in itself, without a follow up in the real world, will bury you.

I do gets you out of the comfort zone. It pushes you to break the limits and actually do. There is always a risk of failing if you do something. But if you don’t, you won’t change anything either.

“I Can” is nice, “I Do” is grumpy

At the “I can” level things are pinky and perfect. You see your goals, you imagine a self without extra fat, a perfect career, a nurturing relationship. Everything is nice.

At the “I do” level things are sometimes ugly. You have to fight, to resist, to pull, to strive. Getting there means almost every time beating some obstacles. Which is not always nice.

“I Can” makes no promises, “I Do” respects all the promises

At the “I can” level you don’t make promises, you’re just telling “ok, I’m able to do it”. You won’t commit to anything. You’re just acknowledging some facts.

At the “I do” level you have to respect your commitments. Doing things means keeping your promises. Make things happening. Stand up for your words.

“I Can” is easy, “I Do” is hard

Because you make no real commitments, “I can” gives you room to dream big. I can be whatever I want. It’s spectacular and easy. You’re just saying it.

Once you start keeping your promises, the big dreams must become reality. And that’s hard. It’s not always spectacular and it requires constant, difficult work.

“I Can” is a thought, “I Do” is an action

Think for a moment at this situation: you met the love of your life, you fell in love and now you want to move forward. “I Can” marry you is a thought, while “I Do” marry you is an action. You can replace your example with whatever situations you feel attracted to: “I can” have money versus “I do” have money, “I can” be happy versus “I am” happy.

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Now, how can you really move from “I can” to “I do”? If you read the differences above carefully, I think you already know. And, surprisingly enough, it’s not complicated. You knew it all the time.

If you really, really want to switch from “I can” to “I do” you have to get out of the comfort zone. You have to be prepared to fail. You have to make and keep promises. You have to work it out. Thinking that you can do stuff is important, but making it happen is a completely different process. And in my opinion, this is where all the fun is, at making things happening. Thinking big is good, doing big is even better.

And, yes, the most important step to actually do something is to move away from the computer right now and start making things happen. Reading blogs, including this one, won’t help for long. It might help in the beginning, it will give you some directions, but it won’t make things happening in your place. The real master of your life is you, not a blog.

Step out, take risks and do something with your life.

Of course you can. Now do it!