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The 'Do Nothing' technique to motivate ourselves/others.



There are times when we need to motivate ourselves or others around us. We need to make some decisions but are postponing it endlessly without realizing that we are actually doing nothing. At both such times consciously highlighting the do nothing options forces us to do something.


Let us assume someone around you says, “I don’t feel like exercising today.”

You respond with, “Yeah somedays you feel like that. You have three choices in front of you. 1. You go to the gym but do half the workout and come back. 2. You exercise at home for half an hour. 3. You do nothing. Which one do you want to choose?”


When consciously made aware that there is a ‘Do nothing’ choice, most people the research says, don’t want to opt for that. We inherently abhor the idea of doing nothing as it conveys a lazy person or an indecisive person. Most of us like to be seen as hardworking, decisive, responsible people. So when a “Do Nothing” option is paired with a couple of ‘Do something specific” options, it is a way of motivating others and ourselves to get into the action mode.

“I have to go for a medical test and I keep postponing it”

“Look you can do one of the three things today. 1. Just get dressed and without thinking much go for the test. 2. You can relax a little and just call them up and fix the appointment for tomorrow. 3. You can sit back and do nothing. What is your choice?”


Framing it that way will make a difference to that other person, doesn’t it?


This technique can also be used when we want to limit the choices we are offering others.

“What are we having for breakfast today?”

“I can make Dosas, I can whip up sandwiches or we can order something from outside ( A polite way of saying ‘do nothing’). When framed this way, the other person perceives that you are offering fair choices and a third option is also a valid option. But in your mind, you don’t want to stretch yourselves beyond the first two options.

"Can I play for some more time?"

"I will give you three options: You can play for extra ten minutes today, you can play for extra fifteen minutes tomorrow or you could turn off your lights and go to sleep now."


It is wise to realize that people don’t like decisions thrust on them. Everyone likes the idea that they took a decision. The ‘Do Nothing’ technique gets us what we want and the other person also feels like they were decisive.

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