Have you ever said you would NEVER do something, yet ended up doing it despite your strongest declaration?
Think back to your younger self.
Maybe you said you’d never cheat on your taxes, yet you did. Maybe you said you’d never lie yet fabricated something.
Maybe you said you’d never cheat on a spouse yet did. Perhaps you’ve said you’ll never smoke, or never get a divorce yet you’re addicted to cigarettes or single.
How many times have you broken a promise to yourself after you saying you never would? How many times have you broken a promise to a friend, family member, or your kids after saying you’d ‘never’ do that.
Ever been there?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard others (and myself) make, declarations with such conviction and confidence, I’d be a rich man, typing this from a beach in Barbados instead of my couch in fifteen-below weather.
The fact is, even the most passionate worldviews rarely go as planned and those assertions don’t hold up. As certain as some things may seem today, you may look back in a week, or year or five and realize how little you saw coming in your life that would force you to do something you said you never would.
I always think twice now before crossing my arms in stubbornness after writing something in stone.
Why should I never say never?
The main reason you shouldn’t say ‘I’ll never do that’ is because we are fated to error by a variety of factors that we have absolutely no control over.
Humans are complicated and emotional creatures. We are flooded by feelings, circumstances, and our environment which is important to note because we can’t predict a particular outcome 100% of the time.
I can’t predict the person that you’ll become or the decisions you’ll make in a year any better than Zoltar can predict Tom Hanks future in the movie Big.
The other reason you should avoid saying ‘never’ is science. #science
Your subconscious can’t understand negotiations, which is important because when you say ‘never’, it most times happens.
For instance, if I were to say something like “I will never smoke again”, your subconscious receives the order “I will smoke again.”
Let’s give it a try.
For a moment I want you to not think of a house, not think of a car, and not think of a pink elephant.
Are you noticing something?
Our subconscious is completely ignoring the term “not” and instead you immediately had the image in your mind of the house, car, and even the pink elephant.
Research shows that you and I rarely make rational decisions.
Listen to this fantastic Storybrand podcast about why your brain and mine are addicted to negativity, drama, and why we rarely make rational choices.
Conventional wisdom among researchers tells us that humans can indeed make great decisions but only when their subconscious brain is involved in making the choice.
Emotion is why we buy junk food and eat it when grocery shopping when hungry. Emotion and irrational thought is why you self-medicate with sex, sugar, or drugs when you’re lonely or feeling rejected.
By in large, you and I make the vast majority of our decisions based on emotion, not logic, which is driven by our subconscious state.
So, saying “I will never do x” is a logical statement, but will be overcome by our subconscious mind.
What’s happens when you do that thing you said “never” to?
Now, I’m not questioning the intention or sincerity of your word or anyone else’s.
If you say you’re going to do something, I have to trust you until you don’t.
But, I won’t fully trust it when someone says ‘I’ll never do x.’
I also won’t hold it against them if they go against their word. You shouldn’t either.
After all, people change. We go through incredibly hard life-experiences, and maybe something they said ‘no’ to is exactly what they NEED to do in their current season.
We shouldn’t judge someone if they choose to do something today that they once said never to because I’ve learned that life changes people, which can be a good thing.
Saying “never” is like chaining yourself and depriving yourself from something that you may change your mind about in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to run back to your ex after telling yourself that you would never go back to him or her.
What I AM saying is that there is no need for justification of your actions by doing or saying something you once said never to, after making a promise to yourself or to the world.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind and being flexible. Living in extremes like only black and white all the time isn’t healthy.
None of us know the kind of person you will become in the future. You don’t know what you’ll say ‘yes’ to or what you’ll say ‘no’ to. The trick is to avoid being so dogmatic in your never-attitude that you don’t burn bridges. The key is to live your life and allow yourself to enjoy the journey along the way.
Like the OneRepublic song, I Lived, the goal should be to own every second that this world could give, see so many places, the things that I did, with every broken bone I swear I lived.
Be careful saying never, and don’t be afraid to break that promise to yourself by doing what you once said you never would and live.