“I can’t do it” is only a concept

yoga retreat english teacher berlin
©MoreThanGrammar 2018

In August, I went on a yoga retreat. I learned many things there and in this post, I’d like to share with you the top top TOP lesson that I took back with me.

Whenever we (the participants) came up with a reason why we couldn’t do something, our teacher would say one simple line: Das ist nur ein Konzept or That is only a concept in English.

For example:

“I can’t do handstands because I’m a woman” – That is only a concept

“Meditation is really hard” – That is only a concept

“That’s just how I am” – That is only a concept

Why these words are so powerful

Since the retreat, I’ve had a lot of fun bringing these five words into my everyday life.

“I’m too tired” – That is only a concept

“I don’t have time today” – That is only a concept

“I have so much to do!” – That is only a concept

Sometimes it even makes me laugh because it helps me to take my thoughts less seriously.

That is one part of the power of these words. Humour is very important when learning something new.

Another great thing is that they bring us out of our normal ways of thinking.

For example, let’s look at my personal favourite: “I have so much to do!”

When I add “That is only a concept” to this sentence, I start to think: “Hmmm good point. Do I really have too much to do? Or have I given myself too much to do? Is there a way I can do less things today? Is there someone or something that can wait for tomorrow or next week? OR maybe I can do all of these things. Maybe I’ll get them done really quickly… I don’t know, let’s see…”

After that, I feel a lot more relaxed about the whole situation.

So, in short, these words are powerful because 1) they help us question our situation and be less serious, 2) they help us think differently and 3) they help us to relax.

hooray that is only a concept i can't do it english teacher berlin.jpg
Yes… this is often how I teach… ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

Concepts in English learning

Now I’m starting to think about how I could use it as a teacher.

In fact, I’ve noticed myself thinking it in conversations with students.

I hear a lot of concepts on a daily basis. In other words, I hear a lot of reasons why students can’t learn English.

Let’s take a common concept as an example: “I can’t do it”

This is by far the top favourite concept that I have heard during my many years of teaching.

I want to say right now that when I use the word ‘concept,’ I don’t want to say that what you think isn’t important. Of course, it’s important.

What I mean when I use the word ‘concept’ is that this is only an idea that you have. It’s a thought. As I learned in therapy “thoughts are thoughts, not facts.”

This means you don’t have to believe everything you think, which is a very freeing thing. It means you can think again. It means you have a chance to think differently about yourself. It means you have a chance to find a new, and positive, way of thinking.

“But Victoria, this is not a thought, it’s a FACT, I can’t do it”

OK, fine… I still don’t believe you. So let’s look at…

…The way out

For this exercise, I want you to think about something you want to do, but “can’t.” It could be writing an email or giving a presentation or speak fluently.

Put this activity in front of you. Maybe you could make a picture of it in your head. For example, a picture of a PowerPoint slide.

Now say “I can’t do this.” Do it with feeling, maybe even shout it, and jump up and down. “I CAN’T DOOOO THIIIISSS.”

And after that say quietly: “But that is only a concept I have.”

You might need to do this exercise a few times. At first, the conversation will probably continue. “No it’s not, I can’t do this.” Just keep answering: “That is only a concept.”

Then slowly slowly, you might get different thoughts in your head.

“Well no, I can’t do this right now, but I can learn. I can definitely use PowerPoint. And I can definitely type. Maybe I could write a version in German first and then start to translate it. Or I can…”

Do you see what I mean? You start to talk yourself into a different way of thinking. You start to see what you can do instead of what you can’t. When you see what you can do, how you feel about the task changes completely.

Very cool.

you are my hero
You are my hero because you can do this! ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

In summary

  • Whatever you believe is only a concept
  • Concepts can change
  • You have the power to change them
  • How cool is that?

Now go out and there and change your world!

Sometimes we need help to change our concepts. I often feel that it is my job as a teacher: to help my students think differently about what they can do in English. So if you need help to find and change your concepts, give me a call and we can arrange a trial lesson.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.