Challenge Your Default

Challenge Your Default

We are all creatures of habit. The challenge is to create habits of thought and behavior that fuel our success and happiness, not stifle it.

Indulge me for just a moment before reading further.

Just cross your arms and once you have, uncross them and re-cross them the opposite way.

Unless you’re ambidextrous, chances trying to cross them the ‘non-default’ way felt pretty awkward; like you’d just lost 20 IQ points! If so, consider yourself normal.

While how you cross your arms is pretty inconsequential, often we don’t realize how much our habitual ways of thinking and acting can keep us from accomplishing what we want or changing what we don’t.

If you always approach things the same old way, you won’t always approach them the best way. 

The truth is that you don’t see the world as it is, but as you are. And while we’re all psychologically wired to want to defend our view of reality, the more open we are to challenging it – along with the myriad of stories (aka beliefs, biases, assumptions, labels and excuses) we have about what we can and cannot do – the greater the range of actions we’ll have available to us to tackle our problems, (including ‘problem people’), and achieve whatever goals inspire us.

I hope you’ll enjoy this video clip below from a recent keynote I gave in Florida on why it’s so vital to continually ‘unlearn’ what we think we know so we can ‘relearn’ what we need to know.

Five Ways To Break From Your Default

If you always approach your challenges the same way, you won’t always approach them the best way. Here’s four ways to challenge your default. Before you do, bring to mind a problem, challenge or opportunity you are facing right now and then ask yourself:

  1. How might someone who is looking at this for the very first time see it differently? (I elaborated about this approach called Vu Deja in Stop Playing Safe. But just try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who didn’t come with all the history and baggage of excuses, justifications and defensiveness that may be filtering your perspective.)
  2. How might someone who holds a very different opinion to me about this challenge view it? This is particularly useful in relation to a issue that’s causing conflict or frustration in a relationship. Remember, you don’t see things as they are, but as you are. Others may feel their opinion is every bit as valid as yours. Trying to see it through their eyes can help build bridges of understanding you’ll never cross holding firmly to your own stance.
  3. How might approaching it the opposite of my usual ‘default’ way produce a better result? (Eg.  If you are often very collaborative, how might being assertive provide a better outcome. If you’re usually very analytical, tune into your intuition. If you’re default is to be task focused, try being more people focused. Or vice versa! )
  4. How might someone you’ve always admired (living or dead) see your situation? (Channel your inner Zen master, and really try to imagine what Lincoln or Gandhi or Branson or the Great Man upstairs might do if they were in your shoes.)
  5. Write down the top 5 assumptions you have about this challenge/opportunity/person and then interrogate each of them systematically and apply the opposite assumption. How might that open up new avenues for action? (E.g. “I don’t have enough time to xxx” could be flipped to “I do have enough time, I just need to prioritize it better.”)


Tweetable: You cannot be who you aspire to be by staying who you are.

As I shared in the video above, your emotions are always real but the stories you tell yourself can trigger and amplify negative emotions (anger, anxiety, hurt, resignation, self-doubt…), fuel conflict, blind you to opportunities, sabotage your efforts,  or  just keep you from taking the very actions that would help you realise just how capable you truly are.

This isn’t about breaking old habits as much as replacing them with new and better habits; ones which expand your ability to achieve the outcomes that may have been eluding you – in your work, finances, health, relationships and life. 

Remember, you cannot become who you aspire to be by staying who you are. 

I’m off to pack for a few days in Beijing to run some leadership development workshops and squeeze in a little sight seeing. No doubt the culinary delights awaiting me will challenge my taste buds far more than crossing my arms both ways. 

#LiveBravely right?!

If you’d like some support challenging your old ways of seeing yourself and the world, I’d love you to register for my Train The Brave Challenge.
I also invite you to check out my book Stop Playing Safe – chapter four is titled Learn, Unlearn and Relearn.
Learn about both of these at