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It’s Not an Option

Do you have some things in your life which you have no option about doing?

Most of us have quite a few. We don’t have much option about getting up to go to work, or at least getting up sometime. We don’t have much option about eating, assuming that we want to stay alive. We don’t have much option about earning some money somehow.

It might be an interesting exercise to work out just how many things you have in your life which you really do have no option about. These are the things which you simply have to do, because the consequences of not doing them are too horrendous to face.

Many of these are things we have to do every day. They are forced on us by the very necessity of staying alive. Others are forced on us by the circumstances of our lives or the people we live and work with. Some are things we have chosen voluntarily. For instance, if we have chosen to have children, then we have definitely taken on a whole load of things which the average parent has very little or no option about.

We have to do  the things we have no option about so often that they have become part of the landscape. Whether we feel like doing them or not, because we have no option we get on with them. We get on with them rain or sun, regardless of our feelings, regardless of how tired we are. They have to be done – we have no option.

This is very different to how we approach the things we do have an option about. We don’t have to do something like taking exercise, for example, so if we don’t happen to feel like doing it we take the day off exercise. There are a multitude of excuses we can come up with. And then we feel guilty or frustrated because we couldn’t keep up our exercising. If it’s not exercising then it will be something else that we meant to do, wanted to do, but because we had the option of not doing it, we didn’t keep it up.

The way to deal with this is to adopt the mental attitude that we have no option. We have no more option about it than we do about getting up or eating. Once we’ve adopted that mindset, we stand much more chance of continuing to carry out the desired action.

At the moment, I have given myself no option about writing three pages of journal daily. Ideally I do it first thing in the morning. That’s not always possible if I have to be up early to go to a conference or seminar. But I still give myself no option that the pages have to written sometime that day.

In my first book Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play I wrote about the benefits of journaling. I have always found that when I do it regularly the benefits are enormous. The problem of course is doing it regularly. As anyone who starts this sort of daily activity knows, it usually goes well for a week or so, then one day there is a “good reason” why it can’t get done, and then it’s all downhill from there on. Eventually it will tail off until nothing is happening. I certainly found that to be the case with journaling and, in spite of many attempts to get it going again, I seemed to be completely unable to do it for more than a week or so.

Then I discovered the “No Option” mindset. I would give myself no option about writing the journal. No let out. No possibility of not doing it. And suddenly I was filling notebook after notebook again – and reaping the benefits. I think I will write soon about what these benefits are – it’s been a long time since I wrote an article about the benefits of journaling and they are huge. But for the moment the point is that I have been able to keep to the journaling simply because I am giving myself no option about it. Whenever an excuse for not journaling comes into my mind I don’t give it any mind room. I just say “There’s no option about this”.

This morning I got up feeling really, really tired. It was one of those mornings when it was all I could do to move one leg in front of the other. I had overslept. There were loads of things I needed to get on with. My mind felt like cotton-wool. The temptation not to write those pages was huge. But I just said “There’s no option” and got on with it. Strangely enough once I’d started it wasn’t too bad. The words started flowing and my mind started to wake up.

The interesting thing is that having practised the “No Option” mindset on this one thing, I am finding that I am much less ready to accept excuses on other subjects as well. For instance this morning I also made myself do my physical exercises in spite of huge reluctance to do them.


What do you have in your life that would benefit from the “No Option” mindset? It should be something that you would benefit from doing seven days a week without fail. So it might be something like journaling, exercise, prayer or even something mundane like keeping your office tidy.

Select one thing and tell yourself that you have no option about doing it. Every time your mind finds an excuse for not doing it, tell yourself firmly that there is no option. If circumstances conspire to throw your day completely out, tell yourself again that there is no option about this one particular thing. There are no exceptions. No excuses.

Whatever you do, don’t start adding a huge list of things about which you “have no option”. Stick to one. You will find that the mindset will affect other things as well, but it’s best only to have the one thing which is formally “No Option”.

Let me know how you get on!

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    The secret of greatness is simple: do better work than any other man in your field - and keep on doing it

Reader Comments (5)

I've adopted this attitude regarding the candy machine at my office. I used to always get a candy bar after lunch. But when I started the No S diet ( I decided that candy bars were not an option anymore. I replaced them with water, seltzer, diet soda, tea, etc. that are as readily available to me. Although I am tempted sometimes, I'm now finding it quite easy to just look at the candy machine as I pass by and consider it a piece of furniture rather than the devil incarnate. :)

Great seeing that you have a new site and blog. I'm a great fan of your books and am looking forward to your article on journaling. My 3 pages (when I do them) tend to be the dialogue between me and Future Self, and I find that fills the pages rather quickly. I've not gone back to the pages later to read them, so I don't know if there are good ideas buried there, or whether I should even worry about that at all. Maybe the journaling itself is enough to effect subtle changes.
October 2, 2006 at 14:56 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
October 2, 2006 at 14:57 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
That's a great diet No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds. I think I might try it myself!
October 2, 2006 at 15:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Dear Mark,

Your book "How to Make Your Dreams Come True" is still the best.... incomparable if I may say. I still do the "What's Better Today" exercise every day. The dialogue between the future self and the present self is more difficult to sustain. But I remember when I was doing it consistently, I was moving forward briskly in the achievement of my vision. One reason I am not doing this any more is that my vision has gotten a bit stale and uninspiring. I have tried to re-word/re-draft it ... with no success.

I will certainly use your "No Option" technique... as I have been using your time-burst techniques with some success.

October 3, 2006 at 7:54 | Unregistered CommenterVijay
Thanks Vijay. In the book I recommend that you revise your vision weekly. This keeps it alive and makes sure that it still fits you!

(You can read about "How to Make Your Dreams Come True" at )
October 3, 2006 at 9:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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