If Not, Then What?

The best thing isn’t always good. But it’s still the best thing, and that means it’ should be your choice – the thing you act upon.

The best choice may simply be the best choice of available options. A think a truly powerful person is someone who can realize that even a bad option is the best one, and take it. If your leg is caught in a bear trap and the only way to make it back to civilization is to cut it off – well, not everyone can do that. But the ones who can’t don’t survive.

So let’s say you’re presented with an option – a course of action, a path. You don’t want to do it. Then you need to answer one question:

“If not, then what?”

If you don’t have a better idea, then then even an idea you hate may be the best idea. Of course, “nothing” is one of the choices – sometimes. Imagine you’re employed, but looking for something better. A job offer comes your way, but you don’t like it. “If not, then what?” Then you stay in your current job. Your current job may be better than the offered one. Okay.

But let’s say you’re not employed at all – you have no income, bills are piling up, etc. You get that same job offer. You still don’t like it, but: “If not, then what?” Then you starve – so take the job you don’t like, and then look for a better one.

I have a rule with my kids that makes me both more and less strict than a lot of typical parents. When I’m preparing dinner, I’ll get my kids’ input. I’ll say something like “I’m thinking about chicken and broccoli for dinner. What do you think?” If they say yes, great. If they say no – “If not, then what?” They have to make a suggestion. They can’t just say “no” and expect me to rattle off fifteen options until they pick one (parenting tip: they’ll never pick one). So I make my suggestion, and if they actually have a reasonable counter-offer, I’ll make it. If they say “how about ravioli instead,” then I’ll reward them for making a decision and make ravioli. But if they say “umm, I don’t know,” then they get my original offer.

That’s good training for anyone. “No” might be a complete sentence, but it’s not a complete plan for yourself. A long line of negatives and refusals won’t get you where you want to go. Your goal is movement. If you don’t like a particular direction, no problem – but if not, then what?

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