What to Do and What Not to Do?

July 11, 2015

This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on July 8, 2015.

I do not drink much water. I do not like to drink water even though I should drink a lot because I have a kidney problem. Still, I do not drink much water. Irresponsible but true.The other day I needed to take a blood test and was told before the test not to eat nor drink water for eight hours.Not to drink water!!!!!! My God. I became very thirsty all at once. I was going around the room looking for a bottle of water.What is going on?I do not know if it applies to all people, but for an (E) type, the creative imaginative style, which I am, tell them something is not allowed, and it is like an invitation to seek it anyway.We need to break the rules. To cross the boundaries.What happens when someone tells you DO NOT THINK YELLOW? For me, it is like an invitation to think about yellow non-stop.Why is that?Maybe because crossing a boundary, doing the forbidden thing, provides some benefits.A Hebrew expression says mayeem metukim yimtaku (stolen water tastes sweeter). Hmmmmmm. Maybe this explains why forbidden sex feels more exciting too, or as a therapist once told me, no wife can easily compete with a paramour. And the same applies to a forbidden lover providing excitement to a married woman.According to this insight, the conclusion should be: To cause a certain behavior, do not tell people what NOT TO DO. Tell them only what TO DO. Blanchard made a career out of this rule when he wrote “The One Minute Manager.” And this could have repercussions for dieting. Do not tell people what NOT to eat. They will suffer. They will seek and dream about the “forbidden fruit.” Instead, they should have a list of all the food they CAN eat. Just do not put the food they need to avoid on the list.Is that it?I do not think so.I think both instructions are needed; people need to know what to do and what not to do.If you only know what to do and not what you should not do, you really do not know what to do. You wonder if the next thing you want to do is allowed or not. You do not know where the boundary is. And by the same token, if you only know what not to do, but not what is allowed, you do not know what to do either: Is the next thing permitted or not?In order to know what to do, we need boundaries. What we should and should not do, which is the essence of education. And of training. And of living a less confusing life. And for business people, this is the essence of GOOD strategic planning.I have seen many strategic plans outlining what to do but not what not to do. Then, people with initiative and enthusiasm over-extend themselves, or their actions go beyond what they are not supposed to do because they did not know where the boundary was. The strategic plan was designed to be a horse and they delivered a camel.Sharon was told at the war on Lebanon to go into Lebanon to beat the Hezbollah. He went in, but was not told how deep. Where to stop. He almost ended in Turkey…and it had serious repercussions for Israel.I believe religious people have less stress in their life because they have a “manual” on what to do and what not to do. It is the Bible or the Torah or the Quran. Not like us, the secular people, who believe we are free to do whatever we possibly can, while in reality, we are slaves of having no boundaries and thus slaves of limitless opportunities.Just thinking.Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes