Bennis Inc. | When. Not If.
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When. Not If.

When. Not If.

Lately I’ve realized one of my own tendencies. I will often choose to say “if” when I talk about doing something—even when it’s about something that I’m planning on happening or truly want to see happen. This little two-letter word is a manifestation of a mindset I hope to change in myself. It conveys uncertainty. For anything you WANT to see happen or will WORK to see happen, you should say “when” not “if.” It’s surprising how interchangeable these words are.

I’ve often found myself saying to a friend, “If we catch up for lunch tomorrow….”and all too often it falls through or one of us never actually makes the phone call to make definite plans. I realized that by using “if” I unknowingly imply that my intentions to meet up with them aren’t definite. Had I said “When we catch up for lunch tomorrow…” it would have led to picking a place and time right then and I would have seen them for lunch the next day.

In an even more detrimental setting, saying to a future client, “If I work with you on this upcoming project…” allows an opening for it to fall through or doesn’t convey my excitement and willingness to work with them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth—and when your words no longer reflect your intentions, something has to change.

When I stop using “if” I put power behind my words and I set expectations for my own actions. And just how I approach my to-do lists—when I write it or say it, it’s going to happen. It will weigh on me until it does.

Now I’m not saying that “if” isn’t applicable to certain circumstances. You would never want to say to a girl “When I take you out on a date tomorrow…” if you just approached her at the bar or you’re going to look arrogant. Similarly, you don’t want to say to your boss, “When you give me that promotion…” or you’re going to look too forceful and will very likely NEVER see that promotion. But more often than not, “when” is the word we should all chose to put power behind what we say. Whether you’re saying this to a friend, a client or only yourself, it provides confidence and motivation. And when couldn’t we all use a little bit more of that?

 

WHEN I visit Chicago again, I want to watch a game from the Wrigley Rooftops!

WHEN I visit Chicago again, I want to watch a game from the Wrigley Rooftops!

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com