Resetting your default

We think of computer programs and other electronic equipment having a default — a setting that is standard unless you change it. But we don’t think of people having a default — what we do automatically when we don’t question if this action (or inaction) will help us achieve what we want.

Defaults include how we drive to work, even though there is a new, possibly faster route available. We’re used to going this way and we don’t really consider another option. We get in our car and we’re on autopilot.

It can include how we walk, even though our physical therapist says if we took smaller strides it would have less stress on our sore knee. Or how we eat. Even though we’d love to lose some weight, we always seem to grab some chips and a few cookies with our sandwich. Or our email software is set to bring in new email every 10 minutes, which we then feel compelled to read even though it would be fine to respond within an hour.

I’m finding I’m more frequently put in the role of “default questioner” — the person who gently questions people’s default behaviors when their default is getting in the way of what they want.

For example, in my new “Get It Done Program” my focus is helping executives and independent professionals create major breakthroughs on projects where they are stuck. We all get into ruts, thinking the way we’ve always done something is the only way to do it. Yet that old way doesn’t seem to be working to get moving on a key project.

  • In the last Get It Done Program, one man shared that he wanted to conduct public workshops. He successfully had done this five years ago, so thought he would start up again. In working with him I suggested he’d help more people in a deeper way if he offered his topic in shorter webinars, with homework for participants to apply the information to each of their businesses. He could make probably 5 times as much money and have a bigger impact. At first he liked the idea, then was resistant because he didn’t know how to do webinars and didn’t really want to learn. His default was what he already knew, but the new concept would have had a much bigger payoff for all concerned.
  • A woman in the program decided she wanted to engage a graphic artist to help improve her online image. I gave her the number of an artist I’d worked with and told her I knew the artist was in and would welcome her call. The woman said she’d call in a few days. I prodded her to do it during a break, after all the program was about getting it done, so why not strike now? She called and started the process so the artist could have a draft to her in a few days — the same time frame that the woman would just be getting started if she’d waited. She jump started her project by a few days rather than allowing her default — do it later — to rule her.
  • Another man in the program admitted that he was often distracted by TV rather than working on the book he said he wanted to produce. He worked from home and often had CNN on in the background, but that often stole his attention from his work. I suggested he make a sign to put on his TV: “Am I giving my future to TV?” He did, printed the sign and stuck in on his TV. So he now has to physically remove the sign when he wants to watch TV, which makes him ask if that’s really the best use of his time. His default of TV watching — even if in the background — was getting in the way of getting his critical project moving forward.

What are some of your defaults? You have thought through some and decided they are the best method for you. Great! But what defaults haven’t you questioned lately? Take a new one each day and ask if this default is really helping you accomplish what you say you want.

And for more information on my 6-month Get It Done Program, go to Dates and locations are being decided so tell us if you want one in your area.