Adult Taekwondo, Martial arts, Centennial, Colorado“There’s a time in your life where you’re not quite sure where you are. You think everything’s perfect, but it’s not perfect… Then one day you wake up and you can’t quite picture yourself in the situation you’re in. But the secret is, if you can picture yourself doing anything in life, you can do it.”

— Tom DeLonge
This quote is a perfect starting place for this edition. “I CAN’T has become a constant statement in my head. I can’t go on the train, I don’t know how it works. I can’t go downtown, there may be scary people there. I can’t drive to another city, what if something bad happens….

These attacks go on all day long. But this last week something changed … I changed.

I realized one of my enemies is my own self talk … the attack of the I can’t (s) followed by their secret weapon, the what ifs.

Two weeks ago, in the mail, I was thrilled to find an announcement from my daughter-in-law that she had,after many years of obstacles, achieved her goal of graduating from college. I immediately called her to congratulate her on this amazing achievement. During that call, she asked me to attend her graduation and come to her home for the following celebration. Caught up in the excitement, I quickly agreed. But within moments of hanging up, the I Can’t attacks came flying in.

I can’t drive to her home, what if my car breaks down on the way…

I can’t go downtown to her graduation, what if I have a panic attack being around so many people (not to mention I can’t drive downtown)…

I can’t go to her party, what if I have to meet a lot of people…

What if I say something stupid….
What if, what if, what if…

The I Can’t (s) looked to be winning the battle as usual and after stressing over this for days, I finally called her back and asked if I could ride down to her house with her and would stay at the house while the rest of the family attended the graduation. The disappointment in her voice drove straight through my heart. We have been supporting each other for 13 years … it was at this point that I decided to fight back. I would find a way to keep the I Can’t (s) from stealing yet another special moment from my life. I recalled a partial quote from a movie I had recently been watching, “Princess Diaries 2”.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is far more important than fear…”

My daughter-in-law was definitely more important so I began to work on my battle plan.
With the help of others, a plan was devised … a plan that would not only win the battle but set the foundation to eventually win the war.

I found out I could get to her home without getting on a highway and proceeded to memorize the route. I called my daughter-in-law and asked if there might be room in her car for the trip to the downtown coliseum. There was. I gave myself permission to go and enjoy this, no matter how hard the I Can’t (s) try to stop me.

The big day dawned, bright and sunny. I packed my bag and got ready all the while still hearing the enemy shouting fears at me. I stopped at the front door, hand on the lock, scared, fearful, nervous … the what if(s) flying all around me. I put my bags down and started pacing around my living room (always a sure tell sign I’m stressing). How can I do this?

WAIT, hold the phone!!! Did I just ask myself “how CAN I do this?” Not I can’t? That was definitely a new thought for me. I decided to stop my pacing and knew if I practiced my Taekwondo, I would focus my mind and reduce the stress levels … 30 minutes later I got in my car and off I went. Now I would love to say that at this point I never looked back but as good ole George said, “I can not tell a lie.”

Old behaviors are not easily left behind and half the time I am not even aware of why I am doing something. My example? I did get in my car, bags and all and as I drove out of my neighborhood, decided I should go get breakfast before starting my trip. After that it was a stop at Starbucks, then window shopping at the mall that was next to the road I would need to take to start my adventure. I suddenly realized I was avoiding the next step. With determined resolve, I left the store, got in my car, took a deep breath (everyone is always reminding me to breath) and started down the road. Within minutes, I was driving in new territory. I had never gone down this road (or this path) before and was working hard to just keep going straight ahead. So what happened? Did I get in an accident? Run out of gas? Get attacked by giant flying giraffes? NOPE! Not one of the what if(s) happened. What did happen was I began to see beautiful countryside and rolling hills. Fluffy clouds were floating in a bright blue sky. I couldn’t remember the last time I even looked at the sky. And there were COWS … I love cows.

I was actually enjoying this trip and by the time I got to my destination was thinking I may just spend my days off driving up and down that road for fun. I think a smile actually popped out once or twice. I was so proud of myself. This was huge. New found confidence (a little anyway) was bubbling up.

Well, the weekend was incredible. I made it to the graduation (walking through my forms in my head a lot), attended the party and met new people. I battled the I can’t(s) all weekend and for the most part won.

The important part is now I know I CAN!

So here is what I have learned…

That I CAN is a stronger statement than I can’t.
That I am going to give myself opportunities instead of walls.
That my daughter-in-law is one of my heroes and inspired by her determination to achieve her goal, I will be returning to college so she CAN come watch me graduate.

And especially important, I am learning each day how much impact a tool like Taekwondo can have in your life. The ongoing support of the people, the emotional strength I am gaining, the physical improvements in both stress management and the fact I’m now down 3 jean sizes 🙂 have all greatly contributed to the success I have achieved in the last eight weeks.

There are many more battles ahead but with each success I will continue to grow and eventually live the life I deserve … you deserve it too! Come with me!

CharliV is a Taekwondo student at Shields ATA Family Martial Arts in Centennial, CO

Stan Shields

Stan N. Shields is a 6th Degree Black Belt, three-time world champion, and has been teaching martial arts to kids and adults for over 23 years. You can contact him directly at

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