Let Zero Based Thinking Improve Your Life

It seems like a lot of my blog readers visit my site because they want to learn about the way I run my online business and how I’ve managed to spend an eight month period traveling through Europe. Without sounding like a cocky know-it-all, I also think I’m doing pretty well for myself, but I know that there’s always room for improvement.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my travels, I’ve started to think about the life I’ll be picking up when I return home to New Jersey. I plan on putting as much effort into my personal life as I do for my business and travels. I’ve had a lot of time to think over here, and a lot of things frustrated me. If you’re also feeling frustrated with your life, look into something called zero based thinking—it’s what I’m planning to use to improve myself.

We Make our Own Decisions

New readers might not know this, but that the main reason I started this blog in the first place was to help stay sane after a fairly traumatic breakup. The relationship ended horribly and I was really upset for quite awhile, but looking back on that phase of my life now, I realize that I ended up in that completely miserable situation because of specific bad decisions that I made.  It was a relationship made up of two people, but winding up “stuck” and ending things on a bad note was no one’s fault but my own.

My head’s a lot clearer these days and I can now see that I’ve actually made quite a few poor decisions over the past few years—in terms of relationships, my business and my life in general.

It’s time to quit catching bad decisions after the fact, and to help remedy this I’m going to implement zero based thinking into all of my decisions from here on.

Zero Based Thinking: Would Your Decisions be the Same Today?

A lot of people have the attitude that you should finish what you start, but ask yourself a simple question: If I had not made this decision, knowing what I now know, would I make it?

  • If you hadn’t started a relationship with your current partner— knowing what you know now—would you have moved beyond the first date?
  • If you hadn’t accepted the job you have at the moment—knowing what you know now—would you have shown up for work the first day?
  • If you hadn’t started a business with one of your relatives—knowing what you know now—would you have agreed to partner up with them?

If your answer is “no,” then your goal should be to get out of the situation while you still can.  That’s what’s called zero based thinking. Cut your losses now and try something else.

It’s Time to Clean Up my Life

When my trip is done and I’m “back to reality,” every single action I take will fall under the principle of zero based thinking. I’m literally going to clear up my life by cleaning out everything that’s not working for me.

This means I’m going to toss out most of my possessions (they’re in storage right now anyway, so how much do I really need them?) I’m going to end certain interpersonal relationships that aren’t working out. I’m going to cut out certain aspects of my business that are no longer needed, and I’ve got to eliminate a number of bad habits.

It might sound harsh, but I’ve learned that it’s not fair to put yourself through something that you know is not working for you. Life is short enough as it is, so why bother dealing with things that are literally in the way?

Apply Zero Based Thinking to Your Life

I’m going to leave you today by urging you to zero base your own life. It’s definitely a frightening idea when you first think about it, but ask yourself the following questions:

  • If all of your possessions were destroyed or taken away from you and you had to start from scratch, what would you buy? The objects that you wouldn’t miss probably don’t need to be in your life anyway. Get rid of the useless junk that you keep hanging on to.
  • If you had all the time in the world with absolutely no commitments whatsoever, what would you choose to do? Those things are probably activities that should include in your schedule—stop doing the things that are of no benefit whatsoever, things that only waste your time.

Challenge yourself to apply zero based thinking to these and other aspects of your life. Question everything. Stop doing stuff because you started to; stop doing things because you’re embarrassed to say “no.”  It’s your life—clean it up and make it what you want it to be.

Take Action. Get Results.

28 thoughts on “Let Zero Based Thinking Improve Your Life”

  1. Hi Steve:

    Now I am getting in the habit of coming to your blog right away when I start. Reading your blog post every day and realizing that I will find a new blog post every day is the perception I have created for your blog and that is what I find here.

    Today’s post has lots of insight and a lesson for everyone to improve to better theirs. This is great. Learning from experience and letting others know the decisions that you are reaching after self therapy will help you be what you want to be and some others who get to read your blog and are looking to better theirs.

    Actually, I do the same for something that turns the wrong way to go on normally. I change it with full force to a new beginning. I am not talking about relation ship, but career health, and lots of other situation. A new beginning brings new developments and a new vision, a better perception, a better choice starts following what was not doing so well.

    You have given it a good name “Zero thinking”. You can write an ebook on that.
    Take care
    Fran Aslam

    • Thanks Fran,

      I am glad you are enjoying things. I made a promise to myself, and publicly (in a post) that I would do a post every single day. (or at least have a post…guest posts count) . So far I have managed to keep it up. I think it has been 5+ months now. I am glad you are liking the majority of the posts and hope you continue to do so. 🙂

      Rebooting or starting over can be a wonderful thing. It is hard to separate yourself from a mistake. it is easy to think that you have X amount “invested” in a wrong decision so why not carry it through. This thinking can be tough to get around.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I like the concept of zero based thinking. It’s funny, I heard of it but before reading your post had no idea what it meant.

    I’ve trimmed a good deal of fat and will continue to do so as my vision becomes clearer. I too went through an unpleasant break up a while back. It caused me to analyze the decisions which I made then and in the present.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Steve.


    • I think it is important that people continue to grow somehow. Zero based may not be for everyone, but trying to take strides and improve your life constantly in some way is important.

  3. Hi Scott,

    You know, as we get older we look back on those decisions that we made in life and regret comes to mind. But, I think it’s also important to realize that the choices and decisions we made *at that time* we based on the person we were *at that time*. We did the best we could with what we knew *then*.

    It’s important to grow as an individual and realize that you are not the same person as you were before. Your life experiences have affected you and now you can let go those things that you held onto in the past (for whatever reason).

    Sometime you just have to throw a ‘change bomb’ in your life to really shake things up so that your life is more congruent to who you are today. I think that you (or anyone) has to do what they have to do – if that means saying good bye to certain objects, people, or mindsets, then so be it. Life goes on 🙂


    • Karen,

      You make a good point, often the decisions can be valid for the person that we were at the time. As you grow those decisions can change and the outcomes and future decisions on it adjust accordingly.

    • You have a good point. I think the important part though, is changing things that you would not do if you could go back and change.

      I would think that most parents would not change the fact that they had children if given a chance.

      Of course there are situation that could make a decision very tough and none that could be approached easily

      • Actually that is not true. I read of some research that demonstrated that something like 70% of parents regret having children after they are grown. Only anonymous research will reveal this fact, however.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Very interesting article! I like your idea of zero based thinking. We should get rid of everything that we believe is not necessary for us and that we don’t want. There is no need to keep doing or having things that we don’t benefit from. Thanks for sharing

    • Very true. It can be hard to cut loose from ideas after you have invested a lot of time and energy in them, but when you view it critically the “right” answer becomes easier, though that does not make the decision easier

  5. Wow Steve,

    Very powerful post. Applying zero based thinking in every aspects of our life can completely change our life around. I totally agree. Even though I am not perfect in applying this technique in everything I do, I do try and let me tell you, it really helps me be myself and what I want to be.

    I know I have lots more to clean up to be what and where I want to be. I am going to try even harder to implement this in everything I do from now on… I might as well do it..After all, nobody else is going to do it for me… 🙂

    Thanks Steve.

  6. Well, now you’ve gone & done it. Zero Based Thinking, huh.

    Boy, it’s been super hard for me to bow out of things even when they’re obviously failing. I’m one of the most mule-stubborn people I know & I’ve seen some horrible relationships through to their miserable end. *laughs* That being so, I also see them as successes in that I learned massive lessons that currently make it super easy for me to.. walk.

    I think folks surround themselves with unnecessary things, tumultuous relationships and undue stresses in the form of community/society & familial induced obligations because they are in need of healthy personal boundaries, they have a lack of self worth and some are just plain terrified of the massive success they’re capable of.

    “Question everything.” Here goes..

    • YOU got it. Speaking from personal experience, ending a bad relationship or changing a bad decision just because it doesn’t work is not something easy to do.

      But cutting your losses can often be the proper thing to do.

  7. Steve, I enjoyed your post but had never heard the expression zero based thinking before. I think of it as a ticking clock. I’m very aware that I am approaching the age my father was when he died. The phrase ‘life’s too short’ has a lot of meaning for me.

    I have mixed feelings about comments on relationships. I have been married for 23 years and I can say today that I do not regret that in any way. I wish I had met my husband earlier. However there was a point about 6 years ago when we went through a bad patch and had you asked me then to employ zero based thinking, I might have jumped ship. I can’t even begin to imagine how much I would be regretting that now.

    Life may be too short to have to put up with bad relationships, but thankfully it’s just long enough to build really good ones.

    I wish you all the best with yours. As for getting rid of your ‘stuff’, go for it! The best things in life aren’t things. (Unless you’re talking about ginger biscuits)

    • Good points.

      You are right, particularly in a relationship it should not always be applied to a short term downturn. There are of course rough times to get through in everything business and personal. Particularly in a relationship you need to attempt to work through some things and not just bail at the first hint of bad times.

      I am by no means a relationship guru but it seems to me that if it is b ad for an extended period of time AND you wish that you had never started a relationship is the time to possibly implement zero based thinking.

      I have had relationships that were rocky but I was still glad I started to date the person. Those ones you should try to work through. Same thing with business. There are rough times, the important difference is discerning rough times from a bad idea.

  8. Hey Steve,

    I really love the idea of going minimal in your possessions and the zero-based thinking in your decisions.

    Ya know, we keep telling ourselves over and over again that it’s family and friends that matter but then never really show it because we’re always chasing a new, expensive item. It seems like we’re doing a double-face in society.

    But then something comes along that really changes the game. I’m sorry for the troubles you went through with the breakup but it’s everything that we experience in life that makes us who we are: the good and the bad.

    I’ve actually talked to this extensively to my friend about this. We both agreed, we love every moment of life, even the bad parts. When you’re doing great, you’re on top of the world. When you’re down, you get to build it all again – the human experience is what matters.

    I think by taking this route of removing the distractions, using this zero-based thinking mode and going out of your comfort zone, you’re going to become a truly strong individual on mental, physical and social levels.

    • Murray,

      You make a good point. Life is the highs and the lows. Sometimes your real character really comes through from the bad things that are endured rather than just the good things. Of course this doesn’t mean that you should go looking for bad times (lol)

      Making it through tough times really is a learning experience and only make people better as long as the are able to focus and learn from their experiences.

  9. Definitely a great way to approach life. I was just looking around the other day at all the “stuff” in my life, and it is definitely time for some housecleaning. I started with paring down my Facebook ‘friends’ from over 700 to under 200 which helped a lot. Next I am going to hit the physical stuff, should be interesting!

  10. Steve,

    I just read your “how to lose a relationship in 14 months” post. I can see and feel the pain but also see a stronger will and strength behind it too.

    We all need to learn from our own history and past to make something better and let go of things that do not work. I always have said, relationship is like a “clap”, you need willingness from both people to work.

    I am sure you will find zero based thinking to improve your relationship, business and life. Sometimes they can be all interconnected.

    • Those who don’t learn from their past are doomed to repeat it.

      I like the clap analogy. It does always take two willing parties. No one can form any sort of a relationship alone

  11. Hiya Steve,

    I’ve learned a lot here about you than I have from the other posts. Perhaps because it’s more of a philosophical one which ties in with your real life as well. I guess we all are mediums projected through certain states and not really knowing what’s the outcome, weighing the benefits and sacrifices can be quite revealing. Moreover, it’s constantly filtering out what works for you and is good for you too.

    Thanks so much for sharing this gem.

    Talk soon!

  12. Hi Steve,
    This is the first I’ve heard of zero based thinking, but it makes sense to me. I’ve been practicing a similar way of thinking in my life recently, but I’ve always thought of it as having no regrets.

    It’s not that I haven’t made tough decisions, but so long as I researched it and made an informed decision then I don’t regret the decision.

    My example of this was in 2006 when my wife and I were trying to decide whether to buy our dream house. We did the research and really mulled it over because we knew the market was going to go down. In the end we found the home that we wanted to raise our family in and decided to go ahead and buy. Of course, the house did drop in value and it’s no longer worth what we paid for it. That’s a sucky feeling, but I tell people, I don’t regret the decision because we knew that it would drop in value, but it’s still our dream house. We plan on growing old in it. So, even though it’s lost value, that’s only temporary.

  13. I agree Steve,

    It’s important to wipe out things that don’t work well with us. They will suck out our energies before we take notice. And it’s true to apply this Zero-based thinking technique to every aspect of life.

    I love to live a simple life with not complicated relationships, no boss to tell me what to do, and more. It all starts right here where I’m standing.

    Thanks for this great guide man, I like your posts 😀

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