Press Reset - Zero based Thinking

Zero-Based Thinking: How to decide if you are in the right career.

As I write this we are 6 weeks into a lockdown from the Coronavirus. 

How about when the world returns to normal you get to reset?

Back in 2010 when Goals were still a thing – it’s all about Atomic Habits now for me – I read and reread a great book by author and productivity expert Brian Tracy titled: 

Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.

It was chock full of great ideas for self improvement many of which I tried but the one which resonated most for me was the concept of a Do Over or has he put it Zero Based Thinking which he explains thus:

“When you begin to plan your long-term future, one of the most valuable exercises you can engage in is “zero-based thinking.” 

In zero-based thinking, you ask this question: 

“Knowing what I now know, is there anything that I am doing today that I wouldn’t start again if I had to do it over?” 

No matter who you are or what you are doing, there are activities and relationships in your life that, knowing what you now know, you wouldn’t get involved in.

Zero-based thinking gives us the rare opportunity to ask ourselves if there anything in our lives that we should do more of, less of, start or stop.

He continues “Top people are always open to the possibility and the need for doing something completely different. They are willing to stop doing anything that no longer works. They don’t get stuck into a “comfort zone” and stay there just because it feels good. They are willing to take the risks and the potential failure that goes with embarking on any new course of action.”

It was like a light had been switched on in my brain – what I get to decide again if I made the right decision all those years ago?

Since then I’ve used this tool many times but you can use it right now to determine – are you in the right job?

Take a moment and pretend that you are unemployed but you have a number of written offers on the table one of which is your current employment.

Hi It’s Gary Simpson from Simpson Recruitment I have some great news – 

I can offer you the role of “current role” at  “current company” on “current salary and benefits” with “current company culture” and ”current promotion prospects” with “current hours and travel”

The question is knowing what you know about your job now – with an offer for your role on the table would it excite you and would you take it ?

It’s a difficult decision I know because making objective decisions can be incredibly difficult especially when trying to avoid Sunk Cost bias (when you continue an action because of your past decisions (time, money, resources) rather than a rational choice).

But using Zero based Thinking you are imagining yourself back at the point before particular decisions were made and making those decisions today with the knowledge that you have now about their outcome.

If for some reason you would hesitate to accept your current role if offered then it’s time to polish up your CV and start looking for another role.

Where else can you use Zero Based Thinking ?

Every 6 months I evaluate a number of commitments in my life and ask  

“Knowing what I now know, would I? 

Join this gym (am I using it / does it meet my needs – answer No – solution research new gyms or buy for home and give them notice)

Join this members club (is it value for money am I meeting anyone new there – answer No – solution make sure I have all the details of contacts I like from there and give the club notice)

Go out with the guys on a Friday to the pub (should I be having fun but drinking 6 pints and getting up with a hangover every Saturday and arguing with significant other – answer No – solution continue to go out but stay alcohol free except for one Friday per month if the guys can’t accept it then realise that you may need some new friends)

The purpose is to avoid repeating past mistakes.

If your current situation is not serving you, but you have learned from it, don’t allow it to hold you back. 

You can use the zero-based thinking process to make a better choice and realise that in some cases, the best solution is to get out of a situation cut your losses now and try something else.

“It is difficult, if not impossible, for you to make progress in your life if you allow yourself to be held back by decisions you made in the past. If there is something in your life that you wouldn’t get into again today, your next question is, How can I get out, and how fast?” argues Brian Tracy.

So today – starting with your job why not challenge yourself to apply zero-based thinking ?