The when, then trap

I will act now. Success will not wait. This is the time. This is the place. I am the person.
Og Mandino
1923 – 1996

Have you ever been caught in the “when, then” trap? In case you’re not sure what I mean, let me give you an example from my experience coaching other professionals.

I was working with a small business owner who was struggling to get things done. He was working way too many hours and generating mediocre results. I suggested that he might not be spending his time wisely. I went on to tell him how Sir Richard Branson, the hugely successful founder of the Virgin companies, spends his time: 40% on strategic planning, 40% on marketing, 10% on social issues and 10% on putting out fires. I asked the business owner to track his time for a day or two so we could analyze how he spent his time, then make plans to shift toward a more appropriate allocation.

The owner did as I asked. It turned out that nearly 90% of his time was spent putting out fires. I suggested that his business would work more effectively if he emulated Sir Richard’s use of time, devoting a significant portion of his schedule to strategic planning. My client said, “When I get a staff like he has, I’ll be able to work like he does.”

We often fall into the “when, then” trap. We say things like:
-When I retire, then I’ll spend more time with my family;
-When I pay off the house, the car, and the student loan, then I’ll save more;
-When I catch up at work, then I’ll exercise regularly;
-When things are less stressful, then I’ll quit my bad habits.

We con ourselves into believing that when something specific happens, when we reach some milestone, we’ll change our behavior. That idea is a trap. We take comfort in believing that our intentions are good and that we’ll follow through with our plans in future.

I asked my client when he thought Sir Richard began allocating his time by a schedule. Did he change when he got successful, or did he get successful because of the way he spent his time?

If you’re serious about making changes in your life, don’t fall into the when, then trap. You must make changes in your behavior now, not later. Conditions will never be perfect to make a change — and your circumstances will never improve unless you take steps to make it happen.

Change your behavior and you’ll see all sorts of changes in your circumstances. “When, then” is only an excuse to avoid ever making a change.

God changes not what is in people, until they change what is in themselves.
The Koran

Copyright © 2014 John Chancellor


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