You may be guilty of this and not even know it. You may be doing it hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of times per day — without having a clue.
Allow me to explain.
Think about this: as you go about your day, how many times do you wonder,
“What will happen if I do _____?”
Every single move you make each day is based on that one question.
And it’s the reason why you may make ridiculous decisions every single day. You do, eat, say, and believe what you shouldn’t. And then you wonder why you haven’t yet achieved your dreams.
In the book Nudge, the authors talk about how it’s so difficult for humans to make the proper decisions for our lives, even though we know that in the long run we’ll face the consequences. Why do we fail to make the right decisions?
We fail to make the right choices because the consequences are too far off and vague to “scare” us into the right action.
For example, every time you grab a sugary frappucino, you’re not thinking about diabetes and obesity and heart failure. You’re thinking about yummy deliciousness in a cup! The negative health consequences are too far off in the future to take seriously in the moment you’re placing your order at the counter.
But those consequences ARE serious, aren’t they?
This is fixable. I hold in my hands (or in this post) the key to making decisions that are a bit less ridiculous and a bit more productive.
Want to know how?
It’s easy: replace the word “do” with the word “don’t”, like this:
“What will happen if I DON’T _____?”
Small word change. Big impact.
Do vs. Don’t — What’s the difference?
When you think about what will happen if you DO something, fears creep up on you, cementing you in place. Thousands of possible negative outcomes spring out from the depths of your brain to scare you into submission.
What will happen if I quit my job to start my own business? Failure, debt, rejection, and some more failure…
What will happen if I share my truth with people? Ridicule, rejection, alienation, and some more ridicule…
What will happen if I wake up earlier to exercise? Tiredness, irritability, no results, and some more tiredness…
Sounds kind of depressing. No wonder most people don’t make productive decisions. Ridiculous decisions sound much happier!
I’m not so sure about that….
Let’s try the other way now.
When you think about will happen if you DON’T do something, everything is switched around — except for the fears. The fears are still around, and they’ll still creep up on you, but they’ll be a different kind… They’ll be fears based on missed opportunities and an unlived life.
Watch how everything we discussed above is transformed:
What will happen if I DON’T quit my job to start my own business? Drudgery for all eternity, never-ending shackles, no financial freedom…
What will happen if I DON’T share my truth with people? Loneliness, lies, and pent up emotion…
What will happen if I DON’T wake up earlier to exercise a bit? Disease, tiredness, and inability to live life to its fullest…
See what I did there?
When I’m faced with decisions, viewing them from a “DON’T” perspective drives me toward decisions that make life full of awesomeness, instead of negative ridiculousness.
So, do I use the do vs. don’t approach?
Homeslice, I use it every single day. I’ll show you three examples, the last of which is something I’m dealing with this week.
Example 1: A business decision
I recently “fired” a client. Truth be told, I should’ve fired them over six months ago, but I didn’t because I was stuck on the “DO” mentality.
“What will happen if I DO fire this client?”
I imagined anger, disappointment, and more. I struggled for six months to wade through battle after battle with this client. Eventually, I thought to myself:
“What will happen if I DON’T fire this client?”
And my heart burned the blaze of a thousand suns, imagining all the suffering I’d go through in the future. It hit me: I have to fire this client now because dealing with them causes more suffering in the long run than cutting them loose now.
It hurt like a bandaid, but it ended alright. Now, I’m free and loving every single day. I’m content again, hooray!
Example 2: A health decision
Someone offered me a delicious piece of cake today. I was lounging carefree on the couch after lunch when the offer came up. Some sugary goodness would’ve been a wonderful pick-me-up. I thought to myself:
“What will happen if I DO eat some cake?”
I imagined myself feeling happy and satisfied one moment, but then guilty and regretful the next. Sugar is tricky like that. I knew in my gut that it wasn’t the right choice… but it’s such a hard call to make when your taste buds are jonesing for the sugar, right? So, I thought to myself:
“What will happen if I DON’T eat some cake?”
Sure, my taste buds might miss out on an explosion of delight, but that would pass in a moment or two. I realized that making continuous healthy decisions (like passing on that slice of cake) would mean a healthier Marcella for decades to come.
I declined. No cake for me.
Example 3: A community decision
The entrepreneurial journey can be a lonely one, especially when working with a remote team on remote clients. I’ve been feeling the brunt of that loneliness lately, but, instead of reaching out to people, I’ve closed myself off even further — something I need to change. So, I asked myself:
“What will happen if I DO reach out to some friends?”
I know I have a long list of friends and family I could turn to, but I tend to not want to interrupt their busy lives with my stuff. I may want to vent, run an idea by someone, or laugh at something I found online, but I struggle to just reach out when I need to. So, I asked myself:
“What will happen if I DON’T reach out to some friends?”
I’m imagining myself as a hermit, feeling grumpy, cynical, and unhappy. Who wants that?! The DON’T phrasing of the question has made me realize that
I made up my mind: it’s time to reach out. I’m not a burden or an interruption. I’m a friend.
(Special thanks to the Adventurers that joined me in our Hangout this week. Wonderful, so grateful for you!)
So, what happens if you don’t?
No matter what you’re going through at the moment, I hope the DON’T approach helps you make more productive decisions.
Because the decisions you make are what make your life awesome.
And at the end of the day, no matter what you’re thinking of working on, what if you don’t?
I’d love to hear from you:
What are you working on changing up? Have you tried the DON’T technique in the past? How did it go? Would you consider using the DON’T technique on both personal and professional decisions?
Can’t wait to hear what you’re working on changing and your strategy for decision-making. We’re all a work in progress, right?
Wishing you awesomeness from my living room in Managua!