Reasons Change – So Can You

There’s a financial system called Zero-Based Budgeting, once extremely fashionable and still used in some companies, that requires every recurring expenditure to be fully reconsidered each time it comes up. In other words, just because a company spent a certain amount on an item last year doesn’t mean it should spend that same amount – or any amount – again this year. The idea is to start at zero and justify every dollar of spending.

It’s an interesting principle you can apply far more widely than dollars and cents:


Suppose you are in the habit of buying a certain item from a certain supplier. You can continue to follow that pattern, if you wish. But using the Zero-Based idea, you would start from scratch, survey the market, and rethink your purchasing arrangement, top to bottom. As a result, you may be able to do better on price, quality, service, and/or the item itself.

Or suppose you regularly turn to a specific set of tools, software, or analytical procedures which have worked well for you in the past. Using the Zero-Based approach, you might find that times have changed, technology has improved, and/or new approaches may legitimately supersede your established practice.

In the same way, you may like to tackle certain tasks, projects, or goals with tried-and-true approaches, perhaps sequencing tasks according to certain criteria or adhering to certain performance guidelines you understand and trust.

Applying the Zero-Based concept, you may find – or even develop – easier, faster, and better ways of accomplishing your tasks, projects, and goals.


One big reason rethinking what you do from the ground up may help improve your results is that we quite often do things a certain way without a solid reason. Oh, there may have been a reason back in the day. But that reason may no longer apply. Or the situation may have changed. Or your knowledge may have increased.

The result: you now recognize some newer way is far better than the old way.

For example, a professor friend of mine recently decided to toast the bread he uses to make French Toast before dunking it in eggs, milk, and vanilla. He claims the result is crispier and tastier than when he prepares it the old way.

When I told him I was writing up this Zero-Based idea – the potential value of reconsidering time-tested actions and strategies – he claimed I wouldn’t influence anyone. He argued that people need a reason to change, and when your actions, tactics, and strategies are working well enough, you have no reason – no motivation – to try anything different.

So why did he change his French Toast recipe? Because he saw someone toasting their bread before dunking it, and he became curious and hopeful.

This led me to recognize there are two main categories of reasons to apply Zero-Based reconsideration of what you do:

Seeds of Doubt

When conditions change or new information emerges, a Seed of Doubt may get planted in your mind. You may think: “Perhaps I’m not getting the best result.” This doubt may motivate you to explore for better options.

And there are also….

Seeds of Possibility

Instead of a negative Seed of Doubt, a more positive Seed of Possibility may emerge when changed conditions or new information allow you to imagine better results in the future, leading you to actively seek ways to achieve them.

Whether you are motivated by the negative or the positive possibilities, from time to time you’ll find it fruitful to reconsider pretty much everything you do and why. You may discover that “thing” you do is:

  • No longer necessary, appropriate, or useful,
  • Relatively inefficient or ineffective,
  • Better accomplished by some other method, technology, or approach,
  • Done too often, or not often enough,
  • Ripe for delegation, hiring out, or permanent off-loading to someone else,
  • Well suited for combination with one or more other actions,
  • Much less, or more, pleasant or enjoyable than it used to be,

or in some other way, a good candidate for reconfiguration.

Because of your ongoing quest for productivity and success, I’m pretty sure much of what you currently do will deserve to stay in your schedule with few or no changes.

But to the extent Zero-Based reconsideration helps you discover a way to get better results at any of the important tasks, projects, and goals in your work or your life, it will lead you to incrementally kick up your level of productivity and success.

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