Abolishing When — Then Thinking
Have you ever achieved the thing that you were certain would finally bring you happiness only to feel just as flat as you did before? The thing that would make you feel important but you don’t.
The when — then moment.
When I change jobs, then I will be happy.
When I find a relationship, then I will feel loved.
When I finish this launch, then I will give myself breathing room.
When I move to Chicago, then I can find the community I want.
Imagine life is a pegboard. In this current moment, right now, your board is filled with a variety of pegs — the things that “make up” your life so to speak. The pegs may be colored to represent the different areas of your life — blue for relationships and green for work — and so on and so forth. Your own rainbow of experience. Some may be weathered with age and others may shine with fresh paint. Your pegboard is a snapshot of what exists today. There are empty holes that represent the goals you hold for yourself and the things you are working to manifest. The things you long for in your life. Do you have the picture in your mind?
When we sit in our when — then thinking, the vision of our pegboards is razor focussed on the holes without pegs. The empty spaces. We blur our ability to see the pegs that already exist — the ones that make our lives full in the current moment.
We focus on absence rather than existence. We focus on what is not rather than what is.
Take a moment to think of your career as a pegboard. Imagine that every client success, product launch, or piece of code shipped earns a peg. Add in a peg for every stretch of a soft skill — the tough conversations you have with your peers or employees, the clear delivery of your quarterly vision, your success in advocating for yourself. You own the framework for deciding what “fills” your pegboard. When you decide to place a peg in your board, you assign value to that peg. Your decide what counts by determining what you want to display. Your own value no longer depends on the placement of any one peg, because you have an entire peg board full of success. This very practice becomes the foundation of confidence that you will need to reach larger goals. This is the tool that will remind you that you can, because you already have. If you choose instead to resist placing pegs on your board or to shy away from seeing your collection of pegs up until this moment, further accomplishments will go unnoticed. If you do not honor what you already have, how can you trust that you will honor the future attainment of your goals. When you develop a practice of assigning value to pegs and placing them on your board, you celebrate what exists right now. All further successes will rise to that same level of satisfaction backed by your own appreciation. And when one of your pegs breaks or falls away from you board, which they will, you will remain supported by an entire board full of pegs that are still in perfect form.
Repeat this same exercise shifting your focus to personal relationships. You may see a hole that is hard to look at — the one that represents the romantic relationship you want — perhaps a new person all together or a vision of a different colored peg. You may believe that with that one shift, your entire board will shine brighter. That focus prohibits you from seeing the love that already exists in the rest of your board — all the pegs for the relationships that do exist and support you. Those that fill you up right now. When you fail to appreciate what already exists, you will lack the capacity to appreciate the next person who comes into your life. As soon as that peg lands in your board, you will do what you have always done — focus on the gap.