How I Shifted From ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can’

UPDATED: April 28, 2016
PUBLISHED: April 28, 2016

I am an introvert.

Public speaking has always been scary to me and it’s something that I constantly work to improve. At the beginning of my career, if you asked me to get on stage in front of 1,000+ people, I would have said, “I can’t.”

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Fast forward 10 years and I did just that, when I gave my first TEDx Talk in New Bedford. It’s always been a goal of mine, to give a TED Talk, and the conference theme was fitting, fulfilling—UNBOUND: What happens when we explore beyond our limiting beliefs? This was the perfect opportunity to share my message with people who really wanted to hear it (in less than 18 minutes).

But those same fears I experienced years ago emerged: I can’t do this. I can’t say everything I have to say in 18 minutes. I can’t memorize this entire speech. And then it hit me: How am I supposed to tell people that “can’t” is just a mindset if I’m saying it right now to myself?

As I took a pen to paper, I found myself drowning in “can’ts.” I can’t talk about myself in front of all of these people; it’s just not in my nature. I can’t stay within the allotted time limit; I have too much to say. I can’t memorize all of this; I keep blanking. All of these can’ts were fogging my path.

I had to get out of my own way.

“Can’t is a mindset that can be designed around.” As I said this line during a rehearsal with my team, I realized how ridiculous I was being. If I’m going to tell people to stop blaming things on their can’t mindsets, I had to stop, too. In that moment, I shifted from can’t to can. I can do this talk. I can tell my story. I can help share an idea I think is worth spreading.

Once I embraced the can mindset, other things began to shift. My nervousness shifted to excitement, my worries shifted to confidence, my eagerness to get it over with shifted to embracing the message and focusing on driving it home. Everybody is full of shift.

I also realized I was not alone in this.

There were 16 other incredible speakers facing the same feelings. As we gathered for dinner the night before the event, a lot of can’ts shifted to cans. One piece of advice stuck out to me, when Dr. Michael Rocha said, “Just be in the moment. It’s the only place you can be. Let go of the attachment to what happens after the talk. Once you forget about that attachment, you’ll be great.”

When the time came to go on stage, I was ready. I was in the moment. I walked out with confidence and shared my message with the attendees. I was full of shift. I looked out into the audience and I imagined I was talking to my team back at the office, my students back in the classroom, and even my 5-year-old son who was in the audience. The words flowed seamlessly and were full of passion. I had designed around my can’t.

The event came to an end and feelings of relief, pride and satisfaction washed over me. Every speaker did a phenomenal job, messages were heard and passion was certainly felt.

Related: 7 Motivational Quotes to Help You Face Your Fears

Mona is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design, a UX design, research and staffing shop based in New York City. Motivate Design helps clients discover customer needs and design solutions that meet those needs. Through her experience, Mona developed the Reframework, an 8-step process that any company can use. She recently released an Amazon best-seller, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think, that demonstrates how this process can help companies innovate and design simple, beautiful experiences. In addition to helping clients and other Fortune 500 companies feel unstuck, Mona is also a teacher at Parsons the New School for Design.