What “do’s” do.

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Focusing my attention on the things I don’t want, need, or like is keeping me solidly there. By saying, “I don’t want that,” I just direct my attention right back to it. It’s an endless loop. Or, more true to my experience, a downward spiral.

All the while what I do want is begging for attention. It’s so-so-close. It almost comes up. It’s nearly right there in the “don’t. It’s just a bit buried. Just beneath the surface.

But instead of crouching down to look it, I just keep pacing over it with worry, thinking about how I’ll not do the “don’t” and kicking up dust.

I stopped pacing for a minute though (it was tiring) and since “do’s” are shiny it caught my eye. When I crouched down I had to do a little work to unearth the thing, but it came up fairly easily.

When I stopped pacing over Steve Job’s “Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drowned out your own inner voice.” This shiny nugget came up: “Listen to your inner voice. When other’s opinions get noisy, get quiet. Hone your hearing. Create practices to dialogue with your inner voice. Give it permission to speak up. Give gratitude when it does and act in ways that honor what it’s told you.”

I’m not sure if “do’s” are always longer, but my sense is that they are because there are a multitude of them contained within a single “don’t.” Possibilities. Many different avenues to stroll upon to get you moving toward the wanted thing rather than walking aimlessly away from the unwanted thing. Ya know like, “Don’t worry. Be happy,” which could also say “and content and calm and trusting and faithful, and smiley, and grateful…”

“Do’s” pro-create like rabbits. They are, by their very nature, e x p a n s i v e. They want to build you up, so they just keep offering and offering and offering.

Compare that with “don’ts” which, no doubt, mean well but end up tearing down an idea and leaving you a heap of rubble. Sure, you have the opportunity to rebuild, but “do’s” are natural builders. Let ‘em loose and they’ll build you a castle while you stand by in your Sunday best and watch with delight.

“Do’s” are deeper than “don’ts” too. Like when mom says, “Don’t pester your sister.” And you just stand there frozen wondering, “Why?” and “What do I do instead?” But you know that’s all mom and the “don’t” have to say.

But “do’s” love the question “why?”

(Do) get quiet when other’s opinions get noisy.
So you can listen to your inner voice.
Because when you can hear it, you can dialogue with it. (Just like this!)
And why would I want that?
Because it’s totally life enhancing and you’ll feel such relief and you’ll feel a power behind your actions because you’ll be clear in your intentions and…

And you could keep going on and on like this because “do’s” are eager and enthusiastic, but usually a few skeptical or confused “why’s?” are sufficient to clear things up and pep you up.

When you look for the do’s within the don’ts it’s like a coach with a deep belief in your abilities comes to life to cheer you on.

When I heard “Don’t settle,” and started to ponder the do, my coach came to life and started cheering:


Push the boundaries.

The sky stratosphere’s the limit! Wait, there are no limits. It’s limitless!

You deserve more and you can have more.

You’re capable.

You’re courageous.

You’ll figure it out as you go.

The possibilities are endless.

♪ Do you believe in magic? ♪

And once he started singing that tune, I was like “Okay, okay. I get it.”

I’m working now with putting my “do” lens on everything. It doesn’t quite feel natural yet, but it’s getting easier bit by bit. The coach was sitting solemnly but hopefully on the sidelines for years, but now that I’ve let him in the game a few times he starts waving his arms frantically to get my attention just seconds after I put a “don’t” in play in my mind.

And pretty soon he’s singing.

And I have to laugh because he’s just so darn sincere and peppy and hopeful (and cheesy).

I breathe a sigh of relief. I find my stride, again, too, walking confidently in the direction of that which is wanted.


Steve Jobs and Turning Don’ts Into Actionable Do’s

As a lover of TED and other inspirational talks, I’m shocked I didn’t listen to Steve Job’s popular 2005 Stanford Commencement Address “How to Live Before you Die” until today (hat tip Scott Dinsmore). He reminded me of the importance of moving forward by following our joy, even when it doesn’t make sense at the time. For example, he took a calligraphy class and fell in love with fonts and spacing even though it seemingly had no “real world” value. He later used this know how in designing the interface for Apple’s Macintosh computers.

It’s a wonderful speech and I recommend you carve out 15 minutes to give it a listen. He ends with some advice. Here’s what he says:

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drowned out your own inner voice. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I love the sentiment behind Job’s advice. As a language enthusiast, I got hooked into the words themselves. For me, how we say something isn’t mere semantics or word play. It directs our thoughts and ultimately our actions. “Don’ts” instruct us on what to stop doing but do a poor job of instructing us on what to start doing instead. This is pretty major in the case of Job’s advice because what he wants us to stop doing is living the status quo which is, by definition, what most of us are doing! What are we to do instead? When his advice is reframed as “do’s” a new path unfurls before us as does a new direction. We begin to draw the map of a brave, new life. (This is an internal process some of us do automatically.)

Here’s Jobs’ advice reframed as “Do’s” (I kept the last line intact because it’s already a stellar “do” statement):

Your time is limited. Be certain you are living your life by your design. Protect it  from outside influences like cultural expectations and the status quo.Think for yourself. Live by the results of your own deep thinking and understanding. Draw your own conclusions. Listen to your inner voice. When others opinions get noisy, get quiet. Hone your hearing. Create practices to dialogue with your inner voice. Give it permission to speak up. Give gratitude when it does and act in ways that honor what it’s told you. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

When I initially had this idea I thought it’d be easy because, I conjectured, I would just change “don’t” to “do” and write the opposite of what he said. But, as in any translation, I found myself with many options. Perhaps you’d like to weigh in on how you’d reframe any given piece of his advice as a do or tell me how you thought I did?