Don’t Don’t. Do Do.

don't don't; do do

If you want to be successful, don’t don’t; do do.

That may sound ridiculous and make your 5-year old giggle, but it’s also some of the most important advice you will ever hear.

No Pink Elephants

I need you to do something for me. I need you to not think about a pink elephant. Do not think about a lumbering pachyderm with mauve hues. Definitely don’t picture pink elephants like the heffalumps who wear tutu’s in Winnie the Pooh.

What ever you do, don’t imagine these pink elephants!

Actually, think about a ship! A big ship. An ocean liner. A big science vessel like Boaty McBoatface. Think about any big tanker or ship or galleon. Think about transport ships with big containers that are hoisted by crane on to the ship.

Now answer me a question: When I told you not to think about pink elephants, did you think about pink elephants? When I told you to think of ships, did you think about pink elephants?

Which is why it’s important that you don’t don’t; do do.

Avoiding the Not (Focusing on the Do)

When we focus on what we don’t want to happen, we are still focusing on it. If you’re a smoker and you have a goal to quit, you can say “I won’t smoke today” all day long, and then all you’re thinking about is smoking. Instead you can focus on a nice walk, smelling the flowers, watching the birds fly by or any number of other things.

The problem is saying what we don’t want doesn’t tell us what we should do. We’ve created a vacuum in our life of what we were going to do. So what should we do with that empty time? Probably fill it with that activity we keep thinking about all day!

Instead, we need to give an alternate thought or activity to replace the other. In the same way I talked about ships instead of pink elephants, you can come up with something to replace the thing you want to avoid.

Don’t don’t. Do do.

Better Instructions.

When the kids are screaming in the back seat, you can tell them to stop screaming. But even if they want to, they have to think about what that means. Make it easy for them.

Instead of saying “stop screaming”, say “use your inside voice”. Instead of saying “don’t throw your clothes on the floor,” say “put your clothes in the hamper.” Instead of saying “don’t talk with your mouth full,” say “wait to talk until your mouth is empty.” Focus them on what you want them to do.

Just remember, don’t don’t; do do. Whether it’s for you to focus your time and energy on positive things or it’s to help others, instead of talking about what not to do, talk about what you want to do.

It’s a great way to do what you really want to do.

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About the author

David is a father, speaker, blogger (obviously), and author of How to Create Amazing Presentations sharing the tools, tips, and techniques of the experts to make you an amazing presenter, 7 Steps to Better Relationships built on the stories and lessons on this blog with seven easy steps to help you maximize your interactions with the people you care about most, and The Man in the Pit to help you care for loved ones struggling with depression.

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