The Two Most Important Words For Changing Your Life

The Two Most Important Words For Changing Your Life

If you had to pick just two words, two little words, that would empower you to change your life, what would they be?

Mine would be “I can”.

You’ve probably heard various personal development experts, life coaches, or self-appointed gurus tell you not to say “I can’t”. But why exactly are those two little words “I can” so important? What do they add up to and how do they work?

I Am Responsible For My Life

The first word is “I”. For me, this emphasizes who has to do the changing.

However much we might like to blame someone else for the bits of our life we don’t like, the truth is that we’ve got full responsibility for our life conditions. Unless you’re in an very extreme situation (like being held prisoner), there’s no reason why you can’t wake up one morning and decide to completely overhaul your life. You can:

  • Quit your job
  • Start that small business you’ve always dreamt about
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Take the first step in healing a broken relationship
  • Start eating more healthily
  • Be more active

Don’t ever put your hopes for change on someone else. This sort of thinking looks like: “It’s up to my partner to get a good job, then I’ll be better off financially” or “If only my mother would cook healthier food, I wouldn’t be overweight.”

No-one else can change you. If you’re heavily in debt, overspending, addicted to shopping … and you win the lottery, will you really turn your life around? Or will you rapidly end up back where you started? (You might want to read 8 lottery winners who lost their millions for some food for thought here.)

However difficult your circumstances (poor health, family problems, money troubles), you can start the process of change by looking at your response to events. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, emphasises that it isn’t a negative event itself that’s a problem – it’s your response to it. He explains that “Our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.”

I Have the Ability to Act

It’s not enough to just think “I” when you want to make a change in your life, though. Simply accepting that you’re responsible for your life doesn’t necessarily empower you to change – in fact, it can be a bit depressing when you accept that the bits of your life you don’t like are your responsibility rather than someone else’s fault!

So the second word that I consider crucial for change is the word can. With the tools of motivation, self-discipline and guidance from those more expert than us, it’s possible for us to accomplish anything we really set our minds to and set our hearts on.

How often have you said “I can’t” or words to that effect? Have you ever attempted a goal that you were saying “I can’t” about? I certainly haven’t. Here are a few popular “I can’t” statements:

  • I can’t sing (write/paint/act…)
  • I’m trapped in this job (relationship/town/situation)
  • I don’t have any choices
  • It would be impossible to quit
  • I’ll never succeed
  • I can’t lose weight
  • I always fail

Think about one of your “I can’t” statements. What do you often tell yourself, or others, that you’re incapable of doing? I know that I often say that “I can’t sing”.

Is your statement really true? Is it actually impossible for you to do that – or is it just that you don’t want to face up to the fact that effort, discomfort and perhaps emotional pain might be involved? Is my “I can’t sing” true? No. Singing is certainly not something I’m naturally gifted at, but I can sing – and I know that if I took singing lessons, I could learn to improve my singing.

You always have the choice of saying “can do” about your dreams, instead of “can’t do”.

Using “I can” Today

I’m sure there’s something in your life that you’d like to change, but that you feel you’ve not yet made progress on. Perhaps it’s something that other people have had an influence over – such as your sense of self-worth, or your material circumstances. Perhaps it’s something which you’ve been secretly convinced you can’t change.

Keep that part of your life in your mind for a moment. Recognize that, whatever the influences from other people and circumstances, you do have 100% responsibility for your actions and thoughts. You do have the power to choose your response.

And now realise that you can change this, whatever it is. Even if you’ve tried and failed in the past, even if you’re afraid it will take a lot of hard work, even if you don’t know all the steps to fully changing that aspect of yourself or your life just yet. You can change.

If you’re willing to share your thoughts and your own experience of how “I can” empowers change, please take a moment to add a comment to this post.

Ali Luke

Ali writes about personal growth and development on her blog, Aliventures. As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.

Latest posts by Ali Luke (see all)


  1. Amazing post!! I really, really loved this one and completely agree that “I” and “can” are the two most important words for changing your life.

    • Agreed, great post! I would also add “I am” for positive affirmations. What I love about the post is it keeps things simple. We often complicate change far more than we need to.

      :) Miche

  2. Thanks both! I’m not always too good at simple, so thought it’d be worth giving it a try for once. ;-)

  3. Hi Ali .. absolutely .. just been having a blip week .. & kept on saying to myself .. it’s you my girl – just sort yourself out and get back on the bandwagon .. you can do it ..

    So = I CAN ..

    We only have one life .. and we can’t wait around for others or things to sort themselves out …

    Thanks and I’m here .. so I have pulled myself together and eventually got going again .. great post and information – thanks
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inpsirational Stories

    • Thanks Hilary! I’ve been having that sort of week a bit too, but yes, it’s just a case of picking yourself up and carrying on..!

  4. Hi Ali,

    My two words would be “I will” because after believing you can you must next do what is to go after what you want. We must be willing to do what we want to get to where we want to go.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks Flora, great words. I agree that “I will” is a powerful phrase (so much better than “I should”!)

  5. Great inspiration!! I needed it today. Just right in time. Thanks.
    My favorite word is “sure, no problem” spoken by my husband often.

    • I love people who say “sure, no problem”! :-)

      • good command !! i really feel good!!

  6. Don’t forget the two most powerful words in the English language

    I WILL
    I WILL
    I WILL
    I WILL
    I WILL
    I WILL

  7. Nice Post Ali, during my coaching sessions with people i try to give them back this sense of control so that they stop believing that they are victims and this helps them recover

  8. Nicely written Ali!

    Adding 2 cents from my most recent experience… I just told a few of my friends that I CAN make $10 consistently with a <$100 account in currencies trading. So, what took them 3 years and 2 years (respectively) to learn, I needed less than 5 days to be able to confidently achieve that result. :)

    The “I CAN” words will help change your life.

    Oh, one more point is that I’ve learned from Tony Robbins on another 2 words… sometimes others may still think that they can’t. So… if they can’t…. then “I MUST!” :)

    • Thanks for sharing that, Daniel, it’s great to hear a concrete example!

  9. Didn’t the “Little Red Engine” say, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” as it ran up the hill? Pretty soon he was saying, “I know I can, I know I can”.

    Powerful words in a powerful post Ali. It’s about attitude, belief and our self talk. It’s makes all the difference in our world – what we change and what we don’t change.

    Great stuff Ali!

    • Thanks Miki! You’re right — nothing gets changed unless we change it; there’s no point sitting by saying “I can’t do it” and moaning about how we wish things were different…

  10. Mine would probably be “help others”. Everything else just seems to fall into place if I keep this at the fore.

  11. Around the office we use six words to set the tone:

    Take Action
    Take Action
    Take Action

  12. “No-one else can change you.” I believe it! I’m optimistic by nature but have recently started actively telling myself “I Can” when dealing with life’s hurdles. Whether with cutting down my 10K times or studying for the bar it works!

    “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.”- Proverbs 23:7

  13. … and the little train said… “I think I can. I think I can. And he did.”

    Great post, Ali.


    Joanne Maly

  14. very nice topic

    if i may add
    ill add descpline
    do now what is needed from you whatever you like it or not

  15. Great article! Even appreciate the comments. Thinking I will send a link to the members of my Wonder Woman Challenge. This would be very helpful to them. Thanks!

  16. great post as usual!

  17. Your blog is wonderful! I’ve been reading it for such a long time and still it’s my first comment here. :) Well, in my experience, Three years ago, I understood I want to study in Newcastle university. Just this one. And many people used to role their eyes when they heard the idea. And so the years have passed and now I’m living in UK, studying my dream course in my dream university. Because the night I understood where I want to study, I looked in to the mirror and said ‘Yes, I can’.

  18. Amazing words to live by! Thank you again for sharing your wisdom.

  19. The correct grammar is “I shall” :)

  20. i want to thank you,ali,for your articles , its really useful and give me the power to go forward , thanks alot


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