Don’t Read This Blog

Don’t fail

Don’t stress

Don’t get so annoyed

Don’t shout

Don't work so hard...

Great messages, but they are all about what not to do. And actually, don’t they make you think about the very thing they say not to do? Perhaps they even make you want to do them!

Think about it. “Don’t run” actually makes you imagine running. Like the drawer with the sign on it that says “don’t look in here” - what’s the thing you immediately want to do?

And so it is with life…

When we think more about what we don’t want, we often see ourselves doing more of it and like an obedient SAT Nav, our brain takes it as a message that we DO want to do it. After all, we keep thinking about it, so much so it often becomes our strongest unconscious / subconscious thought. It also begins to bring with it a range of emotions and emotional intonation, which occupies even more of our thoughts.

So, if saying ‘don’t do X’ actually makes us want to do it even more, how do we set out rules in the classroom (and our general lives) that lead to positive action?

Start by listing all the things, feelings, emotions and actions that you don’t want and then ask yourself what you want instead.

Easy huh....

Don’t run = walk

Don’t stress so much = relax

Don’t drink and drive = stay sober

Look at your list and carry on.

Exams are an easy example.

After years of hard work, study, revision and attendance the students approach their exams or just before they pick their pen up, are told by very well-meaning people, be that family, friends or teachers:

“Don’t worry”

“Don’t panic”

“Don’t fail”

“Don’t forget”

Now imagine that the brain processed the word “Don’t,” gets rid of it entirely and so it’s left with the words worry, panic, fail, forget. This is coupled with mental images that show the student doing just that. How useful is that in an exam or even exam prep?

Don’t think your brain works like this?

Ok then....

“Don’t think of a pink elephant.”

We often hope and/or assume that by telling ourselves or someone what we don’t want, we or they will automatically do what we want them to. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case.

Be more aware of all the times people tell you what they don’t want you to do and the times you tell them what you don’t want them to do.

Now imagine telling them exactly what you do want them to do. What would be the difference in results if this was done regularly and consistently?

Think about this in terms of the classroom, teams, departments, meetings, organisational messages and culture. Moving away from what you don’t want is no guarantee that you are moving towards what you do want.

You may have great clarity on all the things you don’t want in life, all the things you don’t want to be, all the habits you don’t want to have and all the things you don’t want to happen.

But how clear are you on what you DO want?

And what would happen if you were even clearer now?


David Jessop has been a self-employed Success and Life Strategist since 2002, and before that had 20 years of corporate experience. Since 2004, David has worked primarily within the Education Sector, in particular with young people and staff in schools, colleges and universities. David’s work focuses on helping them get clear on what they want and why they want it, then teaching the skills, tools and techniques not just for academic success but for life balance. David is available for 1-1 Coaching, Workshops, assemblies, seminars and Keynotes.

Connect with David on Facebook at Phoenix Coaching

Follow David on Twitter @david_jessop

Find out more about David on his website

Read David Jessop's blog 'Teachers, Just say No'.