Every person should not be expected to successfully complete every task. We are all uniquely created, and we therefore have a unique set of skills and preferences. That is the truth we find ourselves reckoning with when considering the third out of the Four Squares: Can’t and Won’t. 

As a reminder, the Four Squares is a mental model that charts the intersection of ability and desire. We have spent the last two weeks looking at the squares “Can and Will” and “Can’t and Will” and considering how we might move towards a place where ability and desire are aligned. 

Your first instinct when faced with a task that you don’t have the ability or desire to do might be to quit, and that’s not a bad thing. 

Psychologist Kathy Kolbe has created a test known as the Kolbe Index to identify conative strengths and weaknesses. Conative ability has to do with how you take action: as opposed to tests like Myers-Briggs that measure the affective process, how you use emotion, or IQ test, which tests cognitive ability and how you acquire knowledge. 

The Kolbe Index does not make any claims on how “smart” an individual is, but rather which kinds of actions they are insistent in or resistant to. Sometimes when approached with a task you don’t have the skill to achieve, it can feel like you are not smart enough to learn the skill. However, the Kolbe Index challenges you to look instead at if this is an activity you may be resistant to on a conative level. 

The Kolbe Index breaks down actions into four categories: Fact Finder, which deals with the need to probe, Follow Through, the need to pattern, Quick Start, the need to improvise, and Implementor, the need to demonstrate. Each person will be ranked on a scale of 1-10 on each of these categories: 7-10 meaning that you actively insist on activities of this nature, 4-6 meaning that you are accommodating to the activity, and 1-3 meaning that you are resistant to the activity. For example, I am an 8-7-3-2, which means that I insist on Fact Finding and Follow Through and resist Quick Start and Implementor. 

One application of the Kolbe Index is that it can help you assess whether a job will be fulfilling for you. The first test should certainly be if it is aligned with your There, but even an opportunity that fulfills your There may not be personally fulfilling. When looking for the next step in your career then, another factor to keep in mind is the kinds of tasks that this new role would entail and whether or not you are actively resistant to the activities it would entail. We are all able to act out of conative alignment for a time. But if you do it for too long then you will burn out and your friends and family will feel neglected when you have no more energy to give them. 

You were not made to be able to achieve everything efficiently. Therefore, if the circumstances allow, maybe consider passing off a task that would create conative tension for you to someone who would be able to accomplish it with greater ease and enjoyment? This is not to say that you should never do hard things or try something that is out of your comfort zone. Rather, this is a reminder that it is not a failure on your part to feel as if a particular skill is out of your scope of possibility. 

If, however, the tasks you are being asked to accomplish are unavoidable, then the best next step will be to educate yourself and change your ability. You might remember from last week’s blog that it is usually easier to gain ability than it is to gain desire. Ability feels more measurable and controllable than desire does. 

Remember that the three things you can control are your actions/choices, your reactions/ perspective, and who you trust. You can control your choice to teach yourself a new skill and the control over if and who you ask for help in this endeavor. And, even if it feels impossible due to a lack of desire, you can also choose your perspective. Approaching the learning of a new skill from a place of expectancy will yield better results than begrudgingly dragging yourself through the process because you will be more likely to work harder and see results if you expect to see them. 

Oftentimes the hardest thing to do is to start, especially when you don’t have the desire to in the first place. But everyone will be asked to complete something they don’t want to do every now and then, so you can figure out some tricks for getting started. 

Going back to the Kolbe Index, someone who is an insistent Fact Finder who is being asked to complete an Implementor task like building a dresser may start by researching the best methods or tools. Or an insistent Quick Start who has to create an organizational system, which is a Follow Through task, may begin by experimenting with a brand new system and think out of the box. 

Good leaders should recognize that there are multiple ways to successfully complete the same task. A Fact Finder boss may be surprised at how a Quick Start will immediately jump into a project, but they should not project their own insecurities onto their employee and let them work in a way that is best for them. If someone is high enough on the Freedom V, they should be trusted with finding their own way to complete the project assigned to them. 

But let’s say that this Fact Finder boss insisted that her Quick Start employee do everything step by step the same way she does. No wonder her employee feels like they can’t and won’t complete the task! Being allowed to set about completing a task in your own way is crucial to changing “won’t” to “will.” 

Once you’ve figured out a workaround to getting started and developed an expectant perspective, sometimes your desire will naturally change as you increase your ability. After all, feeling like you can accomplish something makes you more likely to want to do it. 

Sometimes that is not the case, and developing your ability has not made you more excited about the task at hand. That would then place you in the final square, “Can and Won’t.” 

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