“Just do as you’re told”

These words may be very familiar to you, whether it’s because you’re a teacher and you use them frequently at work, or as a parent at home, or like me, you heard them all to frequently whilst you were growing up. Whatever the case, what does this phrase really tell someone?

To me, it’s saying: ‘don’t think, just do, I know what’s right’.

Recently I caught myself doing something just that: obeying orders without thinking or questioning what I was doing. It wasn’t a particularly critical situation, but nonetheless I’d done it simply because someone with authority was telling me to.

Some of you may be thinking ‘gosh, this girl needs to get a head on her shoulders and think for herslf!’ But think about it for a moment: how frequently in day to day life do you just accept what you’ve been told, and act on it or repeat the same ‘facts’ unquestioningly?

When was the last time someone told you to do something at work and you did it, but retrospectively you realised what a pointless task it was?

Or you applied for a job because your teacher or parent told you to, but what you really wanted to do was completely unrelated?

Or even more simply, you bought a muesli bar described as ‘healthy’, ‘organic’ and ‘low fat’ as you are on a new diet and believed the kind, caring manufacturer was looking out for you. But they didn’t state that they also put a load of sugar or corn syrup in it to make you crave another.

Nor did you check.

Thanks to human nature, you probably won’t want to openly admit you’ve done any of the above, but the following video is an eye-opening illustration of the unquestioning obedience of our population.

The Derren Brown’s modern documentation of the famous Milgram experiment makes you realise not only how gullible we are, but also the disgusting power we voluntarily attribute to anyone in a position of authority – effectively we’re prepared to go as far as to ‘kill’ someone if told to do so by someone wearing a white lab coat.

Don’t feel too bad about that muesli bar.

For those of you who practise a hobby, whether it be a musical instrument, art or sport, or even in your daily work, you are probably often instructed to do an exact sequence of motions or tasks at a precise time or intervals. You may have been doing such practices or sets for so long that you no longer question the purpose behind them, or what you will achieve by doing them.


Just following the train (Photo credit: Annika Weider)

But you should. I like to think of myself as a slightly annoying person to coach, because I question my sessions and look things up online to get a better understanding of the purpose of the task. Particularly when I’m told to do something explicitly different from everyone else.

From a scientific background, I like to know the science behind the sport and what I do on a daily basis.

Why run at X speed for X amount of time, rather than a slightly faster Y speed for a slightly shorter Y amount of time?

I believe that knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, and specifically how it will contribute to your performance is beneficial on several levels.

  1. You understand the aim of the exercise, and consequently are more mentally determined to accomplish the task at hand.
  2. You know when and how to implement the precise training in a precise yet critical race situation.
  3. You are psychologically stronger in a race situation, as you know you are prepared for exact moments, and can dig deep.
  4. You’re aware of the bigger picture, and puts the session into perspective.
  5. You accept that what hurts the most is what you really need the most, so you quit complaining and get on with it.

So, next time your given orders to do something. Think about it. Is it what you truly want? Is it beneficial? Or is it just someone’s point of view and they’re saying it with authority so you believe them.

Let’s not be sheep.


“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish” – Anne Bradstreet

Imo xx

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