Happy birthday! Now try not to think of a polar bear.

Holiday marketing campaigns used to be centered around joy, gratitude, appreciation and love.

Now the universal sentiment that companies use to coerce customers is some version of:

Just don’t screw it up.

The message they’re sending is, love it or resent it, this special holiday is about covering your ass.

This is the wrong kind of pressure to put on people. It comes from a narrow place of fear, scarcity and lack, rather than abundance and generosity and optimism. It’s not even about the person receiving the gift, it’s about the person who gives it.

Interestingly enough, many of people’s business goals follow this same flawed narrative. Their mindset is, if we don’t screw up, we’re going to hit our numbers.

But that’s not motivating or empowering.

What a goal should do is galvanize you. The goal should challenge and stretch you to work outside your comfort zone, as opposed to sitting around and making sure you’re doing something stupid.

Let’s go back to the aforementioned holiday trend. Would you rather spend an hour writing a poem for someone you love, or spent five minutes buying them a gift card to a store they don’t even like?

Which one do you think they would prefer?

There’s a mantra that one of my favorite filmmakers uses:

Pressure is a choice.

And so, as long as we’re going to put pressure on ourselves for our work, then we might as well direct that energy into a positive direction. One that lends itself to generosity and courage, not scarcity and fear. It’s demoralizing.

Dostoevsky famously wrote over a hundred years ago, try not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.

It’s the same thing. Attempting not to do something often backfires, particularly when we are under stress. Telling ourselves not to fuck it up is an unhelpful and potentially detrimental message to send our brains.

Wegner ran a psychological study in the eighties that found this type of internal dialogue actually increases our chance of failure. His research showed that telling yourself not to do something raises the likelihood of making it happen.

The question you have to ask yourself is, what’s more important? Protecting your pride, or empowering yourself?

Playing to win, or playing not to lose?

When it comes to your goals, focus on telling yourself the story that helps you love yourself the most.

Are you trapping yourself into a revolving door, doomed to make the same mistakes again?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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