THE BLOG

Remove 'Can't' from Your Vocabulary

10/17/2013 12:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The government shutdown is finally over, but one moment will stick with me. On day two, I saw a tour bus driver in D.C. pointing at a map, showing tourists all the places he couldn't take them. It was tourism, shutdown-style: Here are the places you CAN'T go.

There's a lesson here for all of us. The impasse resulted from the politics of can't -- we can't compromise, we can't negotiate, we can't stop showing the nation (and the world) that we're boobs. But it affects us on a personal level, too. Can't is the word that shuts down our lives. It's a road block word that stops new ideas and new adventures (as do its buzz-kill brothers -- words like couldn't, shouldn't, won't and don't). Sure, these negative words can be used in positive ways -- "I can't believe I won the lottery," "You shouldn't eat 10-month-old shrimp" -- but can't is often the destroyer of dreams. Anything you aspire to do, whether starting a business or traveling to Zimbabwe, is squelched, squashed and ruined by can't.

Imagine some of the world's most inspiring speeches with a simple twist:

I have a dream, though I can't imagine how we'd achieve it. It just doesn't seem realistic.

I believe that this nation should commit itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. There are many reasons, of course, why we can't do this. Number one...

Eliminating four letters and an apostrophe may not seem like a big deal, but small mental changes can change how you feel. Two recent studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology (a fairly perky name for an academic journal) show that we can we can feel good just by trying to feel good. Participants who focused on feeling happy--by listening to happy music, for example -- were more likely to experience positive moods than those who didn't.

So banish can't from your brain. I would rather fail (a specialty of mine) and feel like an idiot (another specialty) than be paralyzed by shouldn't and couldn't and won't -- to be trapped in my own private shutdown, which would be, yes, the Boehner of my existence. Focus on what you can do rather than telling yourself why you can't.

You can follow Ken Budd on Facebook and Twitter. Budd is donating his earnings from his book, "The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem," to the organizations where he volunteered around the world.