The Four Squares: Can’t and Will


This is the second of four blogs on the Four Squares: a visual tool used to pinpoint action at the intersection of ability and desire, which is useful for identifying the root cause of unmet expectations.

Last week we looked at the Can and Will square, which is the square of action and the place we aim to move to from the other three squares. However, it is important to remember that no one can be in that square all of the time. It is natural and even good to find yourself in different squares, as no one can be capable of completing all tasks at all times. 

Can’t and Will


Today we are going to explore the Can’t and Will square. This is where desire intersects with a lack of ability. This can be a frustrating square to be in, but it is a good problem to have because ability is easier gained than desire. From a managerial point of view, you cannot make someone want to complete a project, but you can give someone who wants to help out the skills they need to do it effectively. 

Now, the acquisition of new skills can come from management or be self-started. Even though many view college as a place for job preparation, you will have to continue learning throughout your whole professional career. 

Sometimes we get training on the job. Say you work in HR and your company moves their payroll to a different system. Now you will have to train on how to use that system. Your lack of ability does not indicate you needing to move to a different position, but rather that you just need some training! 

Now, if that is true for someone already in a position, can’t it also be true for those applying to jobs or seeking promotions who lack ability in a certain skill? As an employer, you should not only be looking for potential candidates who meet a list of requirements, but for employees who are a good mission fit. There are obviously going to be a few non-negotiable skills–you don’t want to hire a graphic designer who has never used InDesign–but with secondary skills there is some room for improvement. 

Before I started working for The Crossroad, I was offered a position teaching middle school English. Now, I did have the knowledge requirements and some experience teaching online, but they were willing to take a chance on my inexperience in a full-time teaching capacity because I understood and believed in the mission of the school. I ended up turning down that position because I ultimately decided that it didn’t align with my There. However, the point still stands that you can always gain more experience or learn new skills, but mission buy-in is a precious commodity that should not be taken for granted. 

But what if you’re not in a position to be hiring? How can the Four Squares model help you then? 

The Four Squares model is a Moment of Truth tool. You can use it any time you want to seek clarity about your Here. It’s healthy to regularly check in with yourself and assess where you are in different areas of your life. It is especially useful to have a Moment of Truth if your goals have recently changed and your Path has shifted as a result. When that happens, you may find yourself wanting to pursue new opportunities that you are not qualified for. 

Now, this will take hard work, but if you apply yourself and are in alignment with your There, you can learn the new skills that you need to get where you want to go. You are not pigeon holed into one box. You can always shift directions if you discover it’s not helping you get There. 

The Can’t and Will square is a good place to be. Acknowledging where you fall short will help you reach your goals. Some people may fall into the trap of never trying new skills or increasing their ability. This limits the scope of activities they can use to help them get There. But if you are willing to put in the work and ask for help when you need it, you can shift into acting out of Can and Will. 

Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.