How loud would you sing if you didn't know you couldn't carry a tune?

How long would you dance if you didn't know you can't dance?

How differently would you live life if you didn't say the words, "I can't?"

We all have voices that guide and shape us parents, teachers, perhaps loved ones. But the most powerful and influential voice in our life is the voice inside our head.

That inner voice controls our actions. Sometimes our inner voice clips our wings and stops us from doing something we would enjoy.

Sometimes that inner voice is a positive force when it gives us strength and confidence.

The important thing to know is that we all have that inner voice that only we can hear.

Here's an example. I was sitting with two creative friends who are planning a community sing along. I'm doing the publicity for the event and am caught up in wanting it to be a success.

But when I thought about actually going, my inner voice reminded me that I can't sing. I once had a choir director invite me NOT to sing in church because she said my voice threw the choir off tune.

The funny thing is, for most of my life I didn't know I couldn't carry a tune. When my favorite hymns were played, I just sang along happily with gusto.

When I was a kid, I must have thought I could sing because I once entered a talent contest at our local amusement park, singing a cute little ditty and throwing kisses at the audience. Incredibly, I won first place.

I didn't know I couldn't carry a tune until that choir director let me know I couldn't sing.

My inner voice reminded me of this when I thought about going to the sing-along. I decided right then and there to put my negative inner voice to sleep. I'll sing along with the audience at the songfest.

The same inner voice that tells me I can't sing also says I can't dance. That's what it's been telling me most of my life.

Remember when the Twist was the rage? My friends insisted anyone who knew how to dry off with a towel could do the twist. When they tried to pull me off my chair onto the dance floor, I held onto the chair as if it were a life preserver.

For decades, during weddings and social events, I wanted to get up and dance. But my inner voice kept me glued to my chair, saying, "You can't dance."

All that changed after I retired and signed up for ballroom dancing. I remember being terrified during the first class. I thought everyone would quickly learn the steps and I would be the only dunce. I was surprised when I learned easily and even more surprised when I lost my inhibitions on the dance floor.

Now, when our dance teachers asked David and me to give a ballroom dance exhibition during a women's luncheon, I said "sure."

My inner voice now says, "You can do it. You can dance!"

What a difference attitude makes.

I have one special friend who says, "I can't" to everything. Her inner voice plays that negative tape all day long to the point where she is drowning in negativity.

"What would happen," I asked her, "if you stopped using the words 'I can't.' What would happen if you simply tried it?"

When her boss told her she would have to lead a work conference because he would be away, she just about had anxiety attacks. The boss had three words for her: Just do it.

And she did. She did it so well that the people said it was the best conference ever.

I wish I could say that gave her more confidence. It didn't. Her inner voice is still programmed to say, "I can't."

She's coming to spend her vacation with me. My only rule is she is not allowed to say, "I can't." We'll see what happens.

An inner voice that projects confidence can lead to success in many activities. It can even save you from a threatening situation.

On a calm and windless perfect morning, David and I opted for a kayak trip in the open waters of the Gulf. It was just the two of us gliding happily over water as smooth as glass.

But without warning, marine weather can change as fast as ice cream melts. That's exactly what happened when we were miles off shore.

Dark clouds appeared out of nowhere and winds turned the calm waters into angry waves. There was no doubt a storm was coming. I knew lightning would quickly follow.

Newspapers often carry stories about victims of lightening on the water. With fear as a motivator, I kayaked as fast as I could, trying to get closer to shore. Because the wind made it impossible to hear each other, David took a different course. That left me totally alone in a threatening situation.

As the waves tossed my boat, I started to shake so much it made paddling harder.

But then, my inner voice kicked in. "You can do this. You're a strong paddler," played the message in my head.

It calmed me enough to replace fear with confidence. I got safely back to shore.

What is your inner voice programmed to say?