Have you found yourself jumping from thing to thing without ever being satisfied? Have you ever wondered why you never seem to be content? You’re not alone.
While being discontent isn’t ideal, it’s all-too-normal in American society. One study found that only 14% of American adults say they’re very happy.
We all have “if I could just” moments. Here’s what I mean:
Most of us want things that are better than what we currently experience, but we’re not typically willing to put our short-term desires in the backseat long enough to see them come to fruition.
But when our short-term desires collide with our long-term dreams, it causes our brains to start calculating the shortest distance between us and what we want right now, which leads to “if I could just“ moments.
“If I could just” is code for “I think I’ve found a shortcut”. It’s our way of outsmarting the process.
We think that everyone else has to work their butts off to become financially healthy, but “if I could just” make more money, then I’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 a more mature version of ourselves that can actually sustain the future we long for, we’d rather tell ourselves “if I could just” find a better job or “if I could just” become my own boss, then everything will be fine.
“If I could just” thinking is a lot like standing in front of a flight of stairs and telling yourself, “if I could just jump to the tenth step, then I could make it no problem.” The first nine steps are unattractive and, frankly, don’t provide enough progress to be enjoyable. They might even make our legs burn from the repetitive movement. We don’t like those first nine steps. Step number ten, we think, is where true progress is. If we could just jump there in one giant leap, then that would clearly be better than the tedious one-by-one walking approach. We see the first nine as a waste of time. That’s what we tell ourselves.
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 ten-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 onto the jagged edge of one of the first nine steps. Then, in all likelihood, you’re going to roll back down the steps and find yourself laying at the base of the first step, except this time you’ll be starting over with a bloody nose. It’s at that point you’ll find yourself discouraged and complaining, regretting that you ever attempted the journey in the first place. Or am I the only one this has happened to?
I get it; the first step isn’t exciting or “fulfilling”. 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 ten-step leap attempt.
I know, I know. I get it. I really do. You’re thinking, “But that doesn’t apply to me. I actually can make the ten-step jump. My plan is just that good. I’m exceptional.”
Listen, I realize there are outliers in every scenario. I realize some people make the leap, and it seems unfair. And when we see people make the leap to the 10th or the 15th step, we stand back and think that we should be able to as well. But here’s something you already know: life isn’t fair. 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 15. And even if they weren’t, it doesn’t matter for you. You’re not them.
So forget about becoming an overnight success. The ones that accomplish that are very few and far between. I can tell you this much: Luck falls sparingly and unpredictably, but favor always falls 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 elevate our minds to a prideful place that keeps us from taking the baby steps necessary to get where we want and need 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 all too often we give away the immense value of the moment to “if I could just” thinking, and in doing so, we lose our opportunity to grow to where we want to go.
Wherever you’re at today, no matter what step you’re on – whether you’re on step 10 or you haven’t started the journey at all – please don’t fall for “if I could just” thinking. Your purpose and your most impactful life is only found on the steps, not at the top of the stairs.