In the field of health promotion, where I have spent much of my career, one common approach to influence people’s behavior towards healthier choices often tends to state what not to do, e.g., don’t drink and drive, don’t do drugs, etc. While this isn’t exclusively the case, it is often done this way for the well-meaning purposes of having a clear and concise message, instead of an overly complex one.
However, in recent years I’ve begun to question this approach of "don’t" as a means of changing behavior, or more broadly how to create meaningful change or success.
Here’s an experiment:
Quick! Don’t think of pink elephants!
OK, so what are you thinking about right now?
As a parent, I sure know that I’m more likely to get cooperation from my toddler if I ask or teach him to do something specific and positive ("We put our books away like this") instead of phrasing my request negatively ("Don’t throw your books!").
So, what does this mean for well-meaning public health campaigns, parents, or for you, whatever you’re working on today?
Funny enough, when we can picture specifically what it is we want in life, in work, from others – what we envision as success – we’re much more likely to get it. While knowing what you don’t want (drinking and driving, pink elephants, books all over the floor, an unfufilling job) can be useful as a first step, we can’t move towards a desired future without a vision of what it is.
Our mindset and our vision create the future, and the success we seek – whether in our personal or professional life. Set the mind towards what is possible, create the specific vision that outlines what you want, and you are further along that you may think towards making it actually happen.
What do you want to say "yes" to today?
How are you on your way towards creating your vision of the future?