What would happen if you’d ban the 7?

Door Patrick Verheij

I have been banning 7’s from my life for a while now. I mean, all those things that score a rating of 7 out of 10. By my own standards of course.

7’s are mèh. 7’s are mediocre. They aren’t good nor that bad. Things that score a 7 never really got me anywhere except in the same place for too long, wasting my time and energy, dragging me from things that are more interesting and important.

If you look around, 7’s are everywhere. That piece of clothing you sometimes wear because it once cost a lot of money, but actually doesn’t fit you perfectly anymore or just tends to make you feel mèh. Or that piece of gear that still works, but doesn’t really inspire you to actually do the work it is supposed to help you with. The nice recruiter that hands you a lead now and then for a job that is pretty mèh, like always. That project you’re “executing” right now which is actually necessary in some way, but just doesn’t make you tell your friends about it. The Scrum meeting you attend every two weeks, which the team has been doing for the last few ages in more of less the same way.

And so on.

I even like to argue that 7’s are often worse than things you could rate lower, 6 or less. Why? Because those less-than-seven things tend to be problematic in some way. Some are harmful, like the bad relationship, a high-stress job and malfunctioning tools. Some are just annoying. Nevertheless, they provide some sort of signal that something is wrong and you should do something about it. And if you take action, then probably there’s a lesson hidden somewhere.

7’s don’t give signals. They do the opposite: they numb us down. The only lesson in a 7 is that you should have quit it much earlier. It’s a great lesson, but not one you’d like to repeat too many times because of the high cost attached.

Why would you hold on to a seven? Well…a seven is very safe. That’s a great argument. If mediocrity is your game, then a 7 is your friend. It’s a great place to hide. It gives you an excuse to defer responsibility. It’s just the way it is. You can stick with it forever and probably make a living out of it if it concerns some kind of a job you’re in. In a relationship you can always use the line “the spark’s gone, but it’s still better than being alone”.

A seven is fine for all those things that don’t really matter. But is it okay for things that do matter? Is it okay to defer happiness and contribution by sticking to the mediocre?

Try this exercise:

“Choose a certain object (clothes, a tool, furniture, anything you own or borrow), some meeting you regularly attend, a project on your list, or a relationship or collaboration with someone or a group of people (like your position within a team).

Now rate that thing you choose on a scale of 1 to 10. Alas, you are not allowed to rate it as a 7.”

Now see what happens.

If your rating is 10, 9 or a solid and sound 8, congratulations. You selected something which is apparently good for you at the moment. Enjoy it.

If your rating is anywhere between 1 and 5 or a sound and solid 6 then…darn! You stumbled on something nasty. Go treaure hunting, finding the lesson to be learned!

It gets interesting when you tend to give it a 7 and feel annoyed that you can’t. Now you have to choose whether it will be an 8 or a 6.

Do you choose 8? Congratulations! It seems to be pretty good for you anyway! You were able to see the hidden good inside. Now stop feeling mèh about it and start telling your family, friends and colleagues how much you enjoy it instead!

Or…do you choose 6? Then it’s time to dig in deeper. Time to find out if you stumbled on a time-and-energy-waster. Think deeply. Why do you hold on to it? Why not learn the lesson that is possibly hidden inside it and then either make it into something great (8+) or abandon it forever? Like you would do with anything that rates 6 or less and still matters.

I started using this exercise after seeing a Youtube video of Ajahn Brahm explaining the concept some years back (couldn’t find it again, but this one is great too for helping you decide to let go of that 7). Coincidentally it also popped up in an interview Tim Ferriss did with Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram (The Tim Ferriss Show, episode 369).

Getting rid of 7’s made quite a difference in my life and it still does, because they keep popping up. Usually they “descend” down from a higher rating. From something that was great before, but now isn’t anymore. And they don’t really descend lower than 7 most of the time. They become stuck at 7, wasting my time and energy. So it’s a good thing to learn to recognize those creepy 7’s and delete them before they rule our lives.

Now excuse me. I think I have to chase and purge another 7…

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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