“I hate my job, but let’s see how it goes.”
“I’m not happy in my relationship, but let’s see how it goes.”
“I just went on a first date and I think she likes me, but let’s see how it goes.”
“I’ve started a new diet and don’t think I’ll make it all the way through, but let’s see how it goes.”
There are far better responses to the situations above, and I’ll tell you what they are. By changing what you say, you will empower yourself to have a more successful, enjoyable and fulfilled future.
It’s a strong statement to label this ‘the most poisonous phrase in the world.’ There are other, far more evil phrases (e.g., “Let’s plant a bomb in that building”). However, no other phrase is both so widely used and so damaging to our collective perspective on life.
The problem is not the content of these word, but what they represent. By uttering this phrase, you indicate that you follow the less desirable of the following two camps of thought:
- Life is a Ride: If you are a member of this group, you see life as something like a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, twists and turns and surprises around every corner. Life is a crazy adventure and you might be excited about what is coming next, but you feel that you don’t have much control over it. It is destiny. So, you strap in for the ride, and “see how it goes.”
- Life is a Hike in the Woods: You see life as a hike in the woods. As you walk, there are some
surprises (an angry bear, perhaps). However, you are armed with everything you need to both handle surprises (pepper-spray) and plan your route ahead (a map and a compass). For you, life is no less exciting than the roller-coaster rider, but you are aware that the path you take is your choice – it isn’t predestined. You don’t “see how it goes.” Instead, you say, “let’s go that way.”
To be clear, people don’t belong exclusively to one camp or another. The goal is to move your thinking as far into life is a hike perspective as possible.
Life is a Journey Full of Choices – Not a Series of Events That Happen To You
Life is not a ride to strap into, where you just see what happens and deal with obstacles that come up. Life is a journey – one that you have full control over. You have the tools you need to make decisions about your future (or the ability to acquire these tools through self-education), and you have the requisite willpower to follow through on your decisions. Sometimes, they will be wrong. I opened an event management company with my wife last year in Dubai – we spent over US$ 20,000 during the
year we operated the company (not including our personal expenses such as rent). We bombed. But we learned a lot, and wouldn’t change a thing. We now use what we’ve learned to make future decisions.
When I discuss this outlook with others, I often hear: “Yes, we have control over our decisions but we still don’t have any control over who we are.”
It’s OK if this is what you’ve heard – it is what most people think. In fact, until the 1980s, the dominant scientific thinking was that our brain developed rapidly in our younger years, then, once the wiring was set, we couldn’t make any momentous changes to our personality or basic set of talents. We were essentially ‘hardwired’ from a young age.
Then, in the 80s and into the 90s, some landmark studies began to reveal that we can completely
rewire and change our brains at any point in our lives – just as much as we could when we were kids. This has been witnessed all of the way through to the people who are over 90s years old.1
Within the last decade, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology has made incredible advancements in our ability to monitor changes to the wiring in our brains. With this advent, our ability to rewire our brains well into old age has been systematically proven. Scientists term the concept that our brain can continually change its architecture ‘neuroplasticity.’
One of the first, and most popularly discussed, study to leverage this technology was conducted in 2006, in London, UK.
The London Taxi Driver Study
London taxi drivers are required to pass an incredibly difficult exam, which tests their knowledge of the city’s 25,000 streets and countless landmarks. It is called “The Knowledge,” and requires 3–4 years to study for. Even then, only half of those who sit for the exam actually pass it.
Researches scanned drivers’ brains prior to their training, and compared fMRI scans of their brains throughout their studies with a control group of ‘regular folks.’ They found that, at the end of their studies, the posterior hippocampus in the taxi drivers’ brains was physically changed. It was more dense, with a higher volume of nerve cells.2
What this study shows, along with many others since then, is that the brain is always adaptable and can always be architecturally changed – not just in our childhood.
How to Change Your Perspective
To begin the transformation of your thoughts, keep a close eye on what you say. The wording you use will act as a red flag – when you find yourself using language like ‘let’s see how it goes,’ let it be a reminder to you that you should take life by the horns and make proactive decisions to steer your future.
Think about how the statements at the beginning of this post can be changed to reflect a more proactive stance:
- “I hate my job, but let’s see how it goes.” –> “I hate my job, so I will apply to 15 new jobs every week to find something better. If my job improves, I will stay.”
- “I’m not happy in my relationship, but let’s see how it goes.” –> “I’m not happy with my
relationship, so I will read a book about my problem and work to implement the solutions recommended by the author.”
- “I just went on a first date and I think she likes me, but let’s see how it goes.” – > “I just went on a first date, and I will put in my best effort to turn this into a relationship. Just in case it doesn’t work out, I’ll mentally prepare myself to look for somebody new”
- “I’ve started a new diet and don’t think I’ll make it all the way through, but let’s see how it goes.” –> “I’ve just started a new diet, and have found myself slipping. To prevent further slippage, I’ll plan a weekend getaway and cancel it if I slip 5 more times.”
As with anything in life, it takes purposeful practice to create new mental habits. So go ahead and get going- you’ll be amazed how much you can change your perspective in just a few weeks!