Effective Communication

Why MUST is such an unproductive word

February 7, 2022
min read

In one of my sessions with a wonderful human, they observed the following:

“I’m a desire-driven individual. I do things well when I desire them.”

I found it fascinating that they somehow thought to be alone in this tendency. The reality is that we rarely perform at our best when we’re told we MUST do something.

This is simply how our brain works – MUST is associated with punishment, while WANT is associated with reward. And who wants punishment? So instead of fighting our brain, why not play ball with it?

A quote to keep in mind

“What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.”

– James Clear, “Atomic Habits”

How to turn MUST into WANT

It’s not practical nor beneficial to avoid all challenges which at face value appear to be a MUST. What can be often helpful is to check whether we can turn that MUST into a WANT.

Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t. And when we can’t it’s often because that MUST is in fact not worthy of our energy and attention – it’s driven by fear, FOMO or inherited social values.

Here are two magical questions to ask yourself when checking whether you can turn that MUST into a WANT:

💡Why is it important to me – what will it give me?

(try asking this same question 5 times)

💡 How important is this thing (that I expect to gain) to me right now on a scale of 1 to 10?

Author Portrait
Written by
Mica Vaipan

Performance & wellbeing coach, entrepreneur. Formerly startup founder, tech startup COO and investment banker.

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