Sunday, 8 December 2019

#4: Why is humanity like a baby? To the Power of No

Suzi, my beautiful 9-year-old, sitting at the table eating breakfast, turns to me amongst mouthfuls of Weetabix...

“Daddy, you know humanity is like a baby.”

“Really, how?”

“Humanity gets everything it wants. It needs a parent to say no to it.”


Wisdom is clearly not age-related. I am starting to believe that children are secret Zen masters sent to teach us worldly wisdom. If only we could stop and listen, their ideas would change, could save, the world. I wonder how many years it will be before Suzi is Prime Minister.

Saying no. Do you struggle with it? Seems like many of us do.

How many times have you said, “Yes, ok”? The clue in that response is the word, ok, indicating that this particular project is not high up on your passion project list. And of course, you subsequently find out later that this new project is a major drag on your time and energy. It is probably a 20% project in motivation terms but is taking up 80% of your time and mental effort. See Pareto’s law for more on this, being aware of other 80/20 calculations really can make a big difference to your life.

If you find yourself saying “Yes, ok then” or “Yes, all right” or “Yes, why not” then here are three strategies for you.

Name the fear
Often “Yes ok” decisions are based within our fundamental, and irrational, fears. Many of us have a tendency to overestimate the likelihood of something bad happening and we underestimate the time it can take for good things to emerge. Pessimism and impatience rob our better selves and chain us to pain. Tim Ferris has written and published powerful materials on the importance of fear setting and in “defining, preventing and repairing,” see how fear setting works here.

Take the 30-day delay challenge
Just by the simple act of waiting, we can regain control. By putting in place a strategy to bypass our impulsiveness we can “buy” ourselves crucial time. If we resist the urge to say yes, wait and then assess this opportunity, at least overnight, we increase our chances of success. But don’t just sleep on it, ask yourself, ask your dream genie, before you go to bed “How does this opportunity take me towards my life goals, my dream projects?” And see what answer you have the next day.

Start by having a No ‘day’, if that is too hard then make it a No half-day, or No just at work, or just out on the next shopping trip. Feeling ambitious? Make it a No weekend or a No week. You may find that going without is freeing, albeit challenging at first. After a bit of practice, you can then progress to the 30-day challenge.

Take a 30-day delay challenge. Let’s say you want the shiny new shoes or trainers. You have the money. It’s an easy yes, right? But what if you divide the cost of the trainers by 30, and direct that daily amount into a savings account, or use a real old fashioned piggy bank just for fun. If after 30 days you still want the trainers then it might still be yes, but you’ve given yourself the chance to assess it against your life goals. If one of your goals is, for example, to reduce clutter, to consume less, be more generous, be kinder to others then you may find yourself donating your old trainers to charities who can redirect them to people who really need shoes. And you just saved some money as a bonus. Try it, you might be surprised how it can help you make better decisions.

Set short term and long term goals with goal mapping
Once you have unstuck yourself with the fear setting exercise and then have a strategy for avoiding impulsive decisions, which are sometimes costly, you are ready to set your future framework. Opportunities, ideas and decisions come along all the time and in order to assess which ones to say “Yes, definitely” to and which ones to say no to you need a framework, a source of reference and context.
  • What are your personal core values e.g. Integrity, Flexibility, Freedom
  • What situations get you excited?
  • What subjects do you enjoy learning about?
  • What do you find easy that other people struggle with?
  • What do you love doing that also helps others?
  • What is your purpose?
Try setting short-term, medium-term and long-term goals using Brian Mayne’s goal mapping. Thousands of people have used this simple, drawing based tool to change their lives for the better and I have recently completed a 9-month goal map for my relocation to Northern Scotland.  Scroll down to see the goal map which was on my wall for 9 months.

Saying no has a positive multiplier effect - “to the power” of you. We, humanity, people & planet, collectively need to consume less. Reduction starts by withdrawing, reducing our wants and is inherently embedded in the simple Power of No. Saying no is not easy. We need strategies to combat our impulses, face our fears and outwit the incredibly clever marketeers. Try it today, no qualifiers, apologies or explanations. Be kind, just a polite and grateful “No, thank you.” If you want more on No, there is some wonderful research and writing on this topic, some of it Nobel peace prize-winning (#DanielKahneman).

I look deeply at Suzi, who has now moved on to Marmite on toast. I hope humanity will be just fine and who knows, Suzi might just be Prime Minister one day.

If you like my writing you will find longer articles here Neil Mapes - Medium.