We all have “if I could just” moments. Most of us want things that are better than what we currently experience, but we’re impatient. When those two forces collide, it leads our brains to start calculating the shortest distance between us and our goal, which leads to “if I could just“ moments. “If I could just” is the code language for “I’ve found a shortcut”. It’s our way of outsmarting the system.
We think that everyone else has to work their tails off to get out of debt, but “if I could just” make more money then we’ll be fine. We’re miserable at our jobs, but instead of embracing the challenges we face in the present as a way to grow into the future we want, we tell ourselves “if I could just” find a better job or “if I could just” start my own business, then everything will be fine.
“If I could just“ thinking is a lot like standing in front of three flights of stairs and telling yourself “if I could just“ jump to the 10th step, then I could make it no problem. The first nine steps are unattractive and, frankly, don’t provide enough progress to be suitable. We don’t like those first nine steps. Step number 10 though, that’s where true progress is, we tell ourselves. The first nine are a waste of time. At least that’s how we justify our behavior.
The reality is, one of two things are going to happen with that kind of thinking. You’re either not going to jump because the 10th step leap is too intimidating, or you’re going to be audacious enough to actually make the leap, only to find yourself landing face first on the jagged edge of the 10th concrete step. Then, in all likelihood, you’re going to roll back down the steps and find yourself laying at the base of the first step, this time with a bloody nose. It’s at that point that you will likely find yourself discouraged and complaining, regretting that you ever attempted the journey in the first place.
I understand; the first step isn’t exciting. Neither is the second, the third, the fourth, or the fifth. But from step zero, each one of those steps is progress, which is more than you can say for the failed attempts to leap for step 10.
I know, I know. I get it, I really do. “But Mike, that doesn’t apply to me. I actually can make the 10 step jump. What I have to offer is just that good. I have connections, and I’ve prepared for so long.”
Listen, I realize there are outliers in every scenario. I realize some people make the leap and it almost seems unfair. And when people make the leap to the 10th or the 20th or the 25th step, we stand back and think that we should be able to as well. But life isn’t fair and we all get different breaks. And I would be willing to bet that the person who made the leap from 0 to 10 was probably willing to take step one. In fact, they were probably on their way to steps one, two, or three, when they were catapulted to step 10 or 20 or 25. That’s just life sometimes, but I can tell you from seeing enough people do it that favor is on the side of the humble and diligent.
The truth is, “if I could just“ is a thief. It’s a mindset that attempts to rob the opportunities of now and it elevates our minds to a place of pride that keeps us from taking the baby steps necessary to get where we want to get. The tragedy is, there are some very important people in our lives and people who are not yet in our lives who are depending on us to take those baby steps, but we’re giving away the moment and all its value to “if I could just” thinking.
Wherever you’re at today, no matter what step your own – whether you’re on step 15 or you haven’t even approached the journey yet – please don’t fall for “if I could just” thinking. Your purpose and your most impactful self is only found on the steps up, not at the top of the flight of stairs.