“I Can” versus “I Do”

“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.


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!

39 thoughts on ““I Can” versus “I Do””

  1. This is a good well written post. For some people that have a goal better used I can then be using. I do. I enjoyed reading this article. This article is great for some people think that they can never do the things that are impossible.

  2. “There is always a risk of failing if you do something.”
    How about “We can never fail. We just learn.” on your “About me” page? 🙂

    • It’s not in the sense of “becoming a failure”, but mostly as “we may not get what we want”, or “the desired outcome may be different from our expectations”. So the text on the “About me” page still stands 🙂

      One word of advice though: if you’re gonna peruse my blog in search of consistency, you will be disappointed. There are large areas in which I contradict myself. For various reasons: different states of mind, different experiences and so on. The only thing that is constant is change, isn’t it?

  3. I enjoyed reading your parts of your posts on this blog, and found some things insightful and practical and wanted to show my appreciation. I’m a Muslim and my religion is Islam, and so many things you had mentioned on your 100 ways… lists are SO similar to what I know and learn from my religion. It would be nice if you looked into Islam and read the Qur’an- it really is a life saver- but the choice is yours, of course. Since you seem like an open-minded person, I wanted to share my thoughts, otherwise I know preaching can be annoying. Please don’t take it that way.
    It’s just that being a Muslim makes all of the striving and struggling not in vain, you know, not just for this life or zen or whatever, but for God our Creator and good results in the afterlife as well. Because for what other real reason would you strive? I really wish you and others on here well, because it’s great to see people get their lives in order, and if you know the true reality of why we as humans are here on Earth- (to worship God)-then all of your successes will translate into rewards from God both in this life and the next. My two sincere bits. Hope it made sense.

  4. How about …….I will………..I truly believe I can’t is nonsense.I believe I was born to suceed….I am on that path right now….K

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  6. I have to disagree, you have to learn to crawl before you walk, you have to think that you can do it before you do it and then from there you can say I’ve done it!I’ve seen ppl try to do things like losing weight with a negative attitudes going in even though they were doing it they still didn’t believe they could.There’s no point in trying something if you don’t believe that you can do it in the first place because you’ll end up quitting, then you’ll just say well I did but I couldn’t.

  7. I think that the personal sense of causing something to happen is illusory.
    It doesn’t appear to me that there is such a thing as “You do”, therefore you can do nothing. Thus, if something is supposed to happen, it will. If not, it won’t.
    However, “You can”, being just a concept in your head, is the only option that you actually get to chose.
    .-= Doru´s last blog ..Trip to Canada and Against Faith – Part 2 =-.

    • He he, seems we’re in disagreement again here. Which I can totally agree. I still stick with my opinion that what is happening is actually what we allow to happen. The personal sense of causing something to happen is our cleanest and strongest feedback for this reality. We’re constructing it. We make things happen.

  8. Insightful thoughts, Dragos! “I am” building a community. “I am” providing value. I won’t accept anything less than the promises I’m making by declaring these statements.

    “I do” believe your writing is good. Keep it up.
    .-= John´s last blog ..How to Electrify Your Life for Maximum Effect =-.

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  10. Awesome post, Dragos! Too many people have been talking about the power of “I can do it too”, but nobody has talked about the power of “I am doing it too”. You really hit it when you said, “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.”

    Keep rocking!


    .-= Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com´s last blog ..Your Best Insurance And Retirement Plan: Start A Business =-.

    • “I can do it too” is just an identifier, it tells you have the possibilities. It has nothing to do with the real action. Theoretically, we can all climb to the Everest, right? 😉

  11. Dragos, I’ve been out of the blogosphere for couple months and so glad to be back to read such great posts.

    I also think that “I do” is so powerful because it works on a subconscious mind level, it gives your mind a command to start looking for opportunities to act upon. “I can” is nice, but it won’t make your mind start noticing the opportunities and bringing you ideas how to act on them.
    .-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Law of Attraction Tips-What Is Your Vision? =-.

    • Yeap, “I Do” is sending to your subconscious mind a totally different message than “I Can”. It actually triggers some action and a mindset shifting. Amazing how much we’re powered by our subconscious mind and yet we pay so little attention to it! Thanks for pointing this out!

  12. Dragos, excellent work here. I love it. You covered a very important point and I agree it changes everything.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Thank God It’s Today =-.

  13. Hey Dragos, I think you identified a major challenge for most people. To accomplish anything we must reach the action stage. Life is not about what we think we can do, it’s about what we actually do. In the bigger picture, knowledge and ability don’t really mean much until they lead to action.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..The Power of Intention – A Personal Quest =-.

    • Action is the key, Jonathan, totally agree. I have a friend who’s running (he wants to go to a marathon) and he usually runs for 10 kms or more. He once said to me that the most wearing thing in his running is the mental effort of actually starting it. Once running, nothing could stop him 🙂

  14. I am more spontaneous and I have to agree with Shamelle, over thinking is a not good!
    I use to be called the thinker by my closest friends and associates. I realized, I was actually an over thinker. You should never waste time on thoroughly dissecting things, that loses a lot of the excitement in the whole experiencing something new. Instead move out side of the box and physically take action.
    It is funny how changing the way you say something has such an overwhelming feeling for us and how it is perceived by others.
    I learned this in public speaking and never have forgotten it.
    Wonderful article and keep up the fantastic writting.
    .-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Advertising Towards Dummies: A Matter Of Choice =-.

    • Definitely: changing the way you say something will eventually change the way you’re doing. Words are just pointers for your future deeds…

  15. Awesome post! I am stunned by how fast I was able to read through it.
    I recently went through what some, including me, may call transformational learning and realized that what there really is to do in life, and its simply to be present. Be present to your possibilities and you will act upon them then and there, with out postponing it towards the future. I’ve been doing that for a while now and I must say, whoo hooo!….
    .-= Luke´s last blog ..Foreclosures = Creative Freedom. =-.

    • Great comment! Being present to your possibilities is a powerful way to express that. Like Eckhart Tolle said it in his “The Power Of Now”…

    • (I like English)

      Good to hear you’re giving up smoking. Did it too several years ago and feel great. Not too much of an evangelistic type towards giving up smoke (in the end, it’s your choice) but in my experience it was great. A real confeidence booster.

  16. Overthinking is popular way to procrastinate. It can cost you a lot of time as you imagine future, negative scenarios that probably will never materialise in the real world.

    In my experience, getting stuck in overthinking things only makes them more complicated than they are and can easily pull you down into a negative thought spiral where taking action become more and more scary.
    .-= Shamelle- TheEnhanceLife´s last blog ..Less Busy, More Productive – Is It Possible? =-.

  17. Sometimes when you write down goals ‘I did’ is even more powerful
    .-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..Interview with Glen Allsopp =-.

    • Writing (and, to some extent, talking) have this side effect of desacralisation. They take out the “invisible” dimension in stuff and make them more grounded. Which is exactly what “I Do” is trying to accomplish: make them happening. In the real life.


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