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February 3, 2019

Avoid "I Will 'X' When 'Y' "

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This advice is near and dear to my heart because it came from a recent piece published by Brian Rashid. Rashid is a role model and mentor of mine who has dedicated his life’s work to bridging the opportunity gap between the Americas.  He talked about a very dangerous mindset that I want to address, because I think it exists in too many of us. It goes, “I will X when Y”.

This reminds me on an "If then" statement, which is essentially a cause and effect.  However, these statements are often too rigid to be functional. Similarly, "I will X when Y" is dangerous for the same reason.  For example, I will be happy or fulfilled or successful when I make a certain amount of money or buy my dream car or whatever. This phrasing is ineffective because it places too much emphasis on the actionable part of the expression and sets us up for failure.

This happens primarily for one reason. We have nothing to measure our effort on until we are finished.  So, Brian proposes that we refresh our motivation often by acknowledging small victories more, because they give us something to grab onto and remind us that we are headed the right direction.  He also suggests to break big projects into mini projects, so that we don’t get overwhelmed by the large task at hand, and can focus our effort on the immediate action item. Last, he says to remove our preconceptions. An exercise he does is he writes the script of how everything would go in an ideal world, and tears it up to physically acknowledge that things won’t go to plan, which then liberates him from that thinking and helps him to make the best decision given the context he is presented.

In summary, avoid the expression “I will X when Y” because it isn’t an accurate representation of your path and the steps needed to accomplish your goal.

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