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The Art of the “Not”

 Tell a young child: “Do not play with grandpa’s dentures,” all he will hear is: “Do play with grandpa’s dentures.”


Tell a teenager: “Do not be out later than 10 p.m.,” all he will actually hear is: “Do be out later than 10 p.m.”  In fact, when he rolls in at 11:17 p.m. and you ask him why did he get in later than 10, he’ll tell you he didn’t hear you say anything about not  being later than 10 p.m.


Why is this?  As a mom and now grandmom, I know beyond doubt that children possess a unique brain anomaly that prevents them from hearing the word “not.


Let’s translate this into business, into the realm of self-motivation, positive self-talk and goal setting:


Failure is not an option.  This is a phrase that many people use to motivate themselves.  Using the built-in childhood anomaly I mentioned above, our brain will actually hear and understand: Failure is an option.  And so we fail.


What if we said instead: Success is my only option.  My brain just heard: Success is my only option.  My brain looked at that and there was no “not,” nothing negative to throw out, and replies: “Okay.  Let’s do it.”


It’s a small thing, this idea of being positive, but the reality of how to be positive is a huge thing…if it weren’t, the motivational/inspirational industry would not be so huge.  There are libraries full of books on positive thinking…the philosophy of it, the idea of it, and suggestions on how to achieve it. 


What if you simply avoided the “art of the ‘not?’”  Change your talk because our brains will work very hard to make happen what it hears.


*I will not fail…your brain hears “I will fail,” and so you will.   Change it to: I will succeed. – your brain will hear this and work to make it happen.


*I will not be late for the meeting…your brain hears, “I will be late for the meeting,” and sure enough, you are.  Change it to: I will arrive 5 minutes prior to the start of the meeting,” and your brain will go to work to make sure that’s when you arrive.


*I will not forget to call my new prospect…your brain hears, “I will forget to call my new prospect,” and that prospect never hears from you.  Change it to: I will call my prospect on Wednesday at 2 p.m. – your brain will go to work to get you to that appointment.


Positive thinking, positive attitude, positive self-talk should be more than a list of what “not” to do…it should be a light-filled, action-oriented, highly focused and detailed listing, an accounting plan of doing and being.


One Response

  1. I love this article; It’s is and always will be about the way you think. Excellent inspiration, I needed this..

    God Bless,


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