Doubt your Default

This morning I checked ‘agree’ on yet another end user agreement, or EUA, without reading it. Like all of you, I scrolled to the bottom of the hideously long list of sections and sub-sections, past the legalese and the proviso outlining the sale of my tortured soul, and checked the acceptance box without a second thought.

Later, I watched a TED talk on the habits of original thinkers by Adam Grant and was fascinated to hear about a study that measured people’s creativity based on their choice of web browser. People who used Chrome and Mozilla were rated more creative and original by their employers than those who used Explorer or Safari. What possible link could be made between a web browser and creativity? It wasn’t about the browsers, all scored similarly in typing speed and search capacity. What it came down to was the fact that Explorer and Safari come pre-loaded on devices while Chrome and Mozilla must be downloaded. It’s about a person’s propensity to ‘doubt the default’ as Adam puts it, and make their own choice.

That got me thinking. Why did I automatically choose ‘agree’ this morning? Why did I trust the default to serve me best? Where else do I allow defaults to run my life?

Oh man, everywhere. The shows I watch, the music I listen to, even the books I read. I’m a sucker for a ‘must read’ list. It’s too easy to check ‘yes’ and fall into line. And let’s face it, the line is teeming with my friends and family so I feel comfortable standing there, surrounded by sameness. If I’m being honest, I also feel bored and uninspired much of the time. I am existing by default.

Well, no more. Or at least, a little less. To decry all defaults would be ridiculous. There’s not enough time or patience in a day to read and understand even one damn EUA, and since I don’t have time to go to medical school I will just have to trust what my doctor says is true (once I double check my symptoms on webMD, of course). But I am going to start doubting the defaults where I can, exercising my choice muscle and nudging my creativity into the sunlight. The next time I buy a pen I might choose one with purple or green ink, or maybe even one of the fancy ones with glitter or sparkles. How happy and inviting my morning journal will be, filled with colour and light. It’s a start.

I hate the saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ because it keeps us quiet and complacent and plain. We should be playing with possibility. In the fraction of a second it takes to doubt the default, there’s a chance that imagination and innovation might flood the space, moving us from who we have always been to who we might have the courage to be.

What have you put on autopilot? Is there room for a little doubt in your defaults?