Of all the marketing slogans in modern times, the phrase “Just Do It” has infiltrated our culture more thoroughly than any other. I’m talking complete assimilation. Like Xerox and Google have become verbs that mean “copy” and “search,” “Just Do It” has transcended Nike and is generally used to mean “get off your butt and take action.”
And what’s wrong with that? Really, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the phrase and what it inspires has literally saved lives. In fact, I’m sure it has.
Still, I’m going to make an intentional effort to remove the phrase from my vocabulary. Call me nit picky, but one simple word is the undoing of this widely accepted and unquestioned phrase. The culprit? JUST.
In everyday speech, the word “just” is used to diminish something. It’s just a scratch (with blood gushing out). It’s just 10 lbs (that I’ve been trying to lose for 1o years). It’s just me (so pay no attention, my presence is not worth noticing). We tell ourselves that it – and we – are not important enough to acknowledge. “Just” is dismissive. In the words “Just Do It,” I hear “Whatever is holding you back isn’t worth giving any power or attention. Ignore it!”
Saying “just” in this context also hints at frustration. The phrase “Get over yourself” comes to mind. We reach a point with ourselves and others when we say “oh, for crying out loud, JUST DO IT!” When you put it that way, it’s actually negative motivation, which I’m fairly certain was not the intention of the phrase founders. “Just Do It” becomes more about moving away from something (pain, frustration, fear) than moving towards something (choice, empowerment, love).
(And I recognize negative or fear-based motivation is exactly what a lot of people respond to; there’s a difference between acknowledging the fear and reframing, and allowing the fear to become the frame.)
As I’ve written here before, what we resist, persists. The word “just” might snap me to attention and get me off the couch, but is my new resolve sustainable? Sometimes, yes, if I’ve done the work. If I haven’t, going from “I can’t do this” to “Just do it” skips over an examination of my resistance. I’m denying myself a chance to name a fear (usually of not being enough or having enough) and disempower it by acknowledging it and expressing compassion for myself.
Am I being overly dramatic? Over thinking? Jealous that there are probably scads of people who were elevated to the Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous because of three little words, eight common letters?
Perhaps. You may decide I have too much time on my hands and that life’s too short to read or write 500+ words about the evils of the word “just.” I respect that.
And yet, it’s my inquisitive introvert that can’t help but find a friend in Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
I’ve said “Just Do It” countless times since starting my own business, to myself and my peers. I’ve only now realized, upon closer examination, that it provides short-term motivation, and it disowns a natural part of entrepreneurship (and life): fear.
Believing that a mantra of “Just Do It” is all we need to move through fear is like saying change is as easy as flipping a light switch.
So, here’s what I plan to do, in addition to excising “Just Do It” from my list of alleged motivators: when that phrase pops into my head, I’m going to take a moment to ask a few questions.
- What’s in my way?
- What’s my belief about the “it” I should “just” be doing?
- What’s important for me to acknowledge and release so I can move forward from love, rather than from frustration or fear?
I offer these questions to you for your consideration. Take what works, leave what doesn’t… you won’t find me telling you to “Just Do It!”
What do YOU think?? What’s been your experience with “Just Do It”?
Victoria Dzenis says
Thank you so much for your insights! I am in full agreement with you that when we avoid or diminish our fears, we miss out on what we can learn from them. It's easy to say "get over it", but what is it really that we are getting when we "get over it"?
Beth Buelow says
Victoria, thanks for commenting! You make an excellent point… I'm reminded of a very apropos quote: "The best way out is always through." (Robert Frost). So rather than getting over it, it's healthier to get *through* it, lessons and all. Otherwise, as you so eloquently put it, we get little to nothing!