(This article features in today's issue of my newsletter)
For the first in my series of powerful questions, I am starting with a very interesting one: "What will happen if I do nothing?" There are many ways in which we can use it and many meanings we can give to the question. We can use it when we feel stuck and we can use it when things are going well. The answer to the question may be negative, or it may be positive. It's a question which can be asked by an individual, or by a team or by a whole organisation.
First of all we can ask the question when things are going well. When our new business has finally taken off, it is easy to think that success is our birthright and that it is going to continue that way for ever. Yet the fact is that nothing is static. As the saying goes, “Change is here to stay”. When we reach the point where we are comfortable with what we have achieved, we may well have also reached the point where we have become complacent. The result is that we do nothing which is out of our comfort zone. Eventually we wake up one morning to find that life and the market have moved on and we and our business have been left behind. Businesses that don’t keep up to date with the latest developments are not going to maintain their success. Regularly asking "What will happen if we do nothing apart from what we are already doing?" can wake us up to the danger of stagnation. It may make us aware of the trends that are working against us and which will overwhelm us if we don’t start to do something about them.
This question is even more useful when things are going badly. In these circumstances our greatest enemies are fear and inertia: fear - because any step we could take seems fraught with risk; inertia - because any effective action is likely to lead us way out of our comfort zone. The question “What will happen if I do nothing about this situation?” can alert us to the fact that doing nothing is likely to be just as risky and uncomfortable as any of the other courses of action. When we don’t make our mind up to do something, we are in effect making our mind up to do nothing. Doing nothing is one of the decisions. We are seldom faced with the choice, do I do X or do I do Y? The choice is really Do I do X, Do I do Y, or do I carry on as I am? We need to examine the effects of doing nothing just as closely as we look at the effects of doing X or Y.
Of course, doing nothing is sometimes the correct answer. Governments in particular seem to have great difficulty in believing that every news items doesn't require a reaction from them. Bearing in mind the old adage "There are no circumstances so bad that government interference can't make them worse", most of us would be only too glad if our governments would concentrate on the fundamentals rather than shower us with new initiatives at the drop of a hat.
Sometimes we just have to allow time for the right solution or the right decision to appear. Meanwhile we can reassure ourselves that the course of action we are taking at the moment is the right one. If we can't make up our mind about a proposed course of action, then that is probably as good a sign as any that we shouldn't be taking that action.