Thank you, Nike. For your awesome sports gear, as well as your annoyingly awesome slogan.
“Just Do It” has become a personal mantra for many people, and a borrowed quote of choice for life coaches, personal trainers, writers and of course, parents.
Why is it so good? When did this simple slogan become a motto?
Is it deep wisdom? Or the most basic of ideas?
What makes Man stand out in the animal kingdom? The ability to stand upright? Hardly. The ability to talk? That’s not quite it.
It is the ability to choose.
This is what distinguishes homo-sapiens from the rabbit and the dolphin, from the common woodlouse and the anaconda.
Animals don’t have free choice. They can’t choose whether or not to be themselves. Survival is the only motivation for animals. The instincts of self-defense, food-gathering and reproduction are all by-products of this impetus. Why do animals have babies? Instinct. Survival of the species. An animal will not eat what is bad for it. It will do what it has to, in order to survive.
Man can choose to eat more than he needs, or less. He can eat things that are healthy or unhealthy. He can walk or run, or sit idle or lay down. He can make tools that allow him to drive or fly. He can choose to think about survival of his species or of its destruction; he can philosophize, reminisce, fantasize, calculate, analyze or hypothesize. He can choose to be silent or speak in level tones about anything he wants, or else he can whisper, or scream at the top of his lungs. He can sing, laugh, cry and whistle whenever he wants. Man lives in hot climates or cold; he scales mountains and descends into the darkness of caves. He can engage in social interaction, and create societies.
Instinct does not control Man. Although there is a strong instinct to live and pass on life, these can be circumvented and contracepted.
Man has choice.
But sometimes choice can be paralyzing.
There are so many options, so many variables. You can choose what to buy, what to read, where to live, who to speak to, at any given moment. And does it matter? What weight do our decisions hold?
“With no accountability, all choices are relative.”
I forgot where I heard that, but I think it’s pretty true. If there are no standards, it doesn’t matter if someone gets a job, or becomes a student, has a family or lives in a virtual world. If nobody (including himself) is holding him accountable, there is little difference what choices he makes. For example, if you knew that nobody would see you from sun-up to sun-down, would it matter if you wore casual clothes or a fancy suit? If you didn’t hold yourself responsible, would it make any difference if you chose to sleep until the afternoon, or if you were up at 6:00? They are both choices. But when there is accountability, there is consequence. And that shouldn’t be such a scary word. It just means “something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition.” That suit would be handy in a meeting or at a formal occasion. There would be a good consequence for a good decision.
Even with accountability, there are good choices and bad choices. There is triumph and regret. There are choices that hold equal merit, and there other mitigating factors. Emotions of love and hate, pressure from Mom or your boss, unconscious childhood traumas and a million other things. Choose choose choose choose choose.
Should I… go to college/get that job/move to that town/sell my car?
“Do what you love!”
“You can be anything you want to be!”
I dislike this last line, because I’ve come to believe that each person is endowed with certain gifts and talents and tools which they should refine and hone and utilize within their life.
I like this quote a lot better:
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” –Abraham Lincoln.
Choices are not easy for many people. Sometimes it’s safer to have other people tell you what to do, and that’s hard to accept. We resent the monotony of subservience. But what about the monotony of leisure?
Sometimes I’m tempted to liberate myself from the confines of freedom and accept the burden of a trodden path.
It may not be the most poetic, artistic or original idea, but damn it, it works.
Choice can freeze Man in his lofty tracks. “Just Do It” blasts the paralysis-of-analysis out of his path.
All the deliberations, complications, hesitations vanish like smoke. All of the pros and cons, the what-if’s and if-only’s are now behind him.
It’s not so deep. It’s not very philosophical. I can’t test it in a petri dish. But Man is meant to be a Doer. He’s meant to build cities and move mountains. All thought is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to an action. Don’t get stuck on the choice. That ruins the point.
Here’s a Haiku I wrote:
“You can talk and talk,
about doing a good thing,
without doing it.”
In Hebrew: “HaMaaseh hu ha’ikar.” – The action is the main thing. “Just Do It.” In a way, it’s the deepest wisdom.
So keep on choosing. And keep on doing. It’s what makes us human.