If-Then Thinking

We all do it sometimes and, whether it is conscious or unconscious, it is a sure fire way to crap on the present moment.  It is living life based on a future that may or may not ever happen. I call it “If-then” thinking.  It sounds like this:   “If so and so happens, then I will begin to start living.  Then I will be happy.”  Maybe you do not realize how big a role if-then thinking can play in your life.  Take a moment and name something you’d like to have.  For some folks, it’s a promotion.  “If I get that promotion, then everything will be okay.”  Others might be thinking about finding a partner.  “If only I could find the right girl or the right guy, then I would be happy.”  Some would like to get out of the wrong situation.  “If I leave my boyfriend, then I will feel free. Or, if I divorce my wife, then it’s all good.” And still others think it’s about the money or the car or the house, “If I had a lot of money or a phat crib, then I’d get recognition, then I’d get the sex and then I’d have the power…” Blah, Blah, Blah!

Look.  There is no way to live in the present moment, to appreciate life and to be a successful person, while you are stuck in If-then thinking.  There will always be an underlying sense that something is wrong or missing, which is preventing you from being content.  Actually the only thing preventing you from being content is the thought that you are not.  I define contentment as looking at life without wishing it was different.  It is a highly advanced state of mind that does not come naturally, but which is available to us all if we work for it.  For effect, I will quote a rather coarse friend of mine who once stated, “If-then thinking shits in the face of contentment.”

Please note that there is a big difference between If-then thinking and working towards a goal.  With If-then thinking, you have blown off the journey altogether.  You have stopped living, or at least placed a condition on life that is dependent upon something coming to pass.  Working toward a goal can be truly enjoyable.  One can be in the flow of life without knowing what the outcome will be.  In fact, as you work consciously toward a goal, you might say to yourself, “I will be as present for the outcome of my efforts as I am for the journey through each day.”  Now, THAT is an affirmation with some juju.

And what happens if your If-then statement does not come to pass?  You may remain stuck until hopefully, eventually, you wake up to your pattern of If-then thinking and decide to change it.  Of course, sometimes your If-then statement will play out and, for a moment, the illusion of the “then” part of your statement seems like it will be achieved.  In actuality, you will be left with a continued sense of emptiness and will look to set up another If-then statement, which will continue to prevent you from being in the vibrant flow of life.  For some people, this cycle continues forever.

I heard a great story once about this man who was obsessed with owning a Porsche.  Even from childhood, he felt that if he could have enough success to buy a Porsche that he would be content.  The day came where he had built a successful business and made enough money to realize his life-long dream.  He bought the exact model he had always wanted.  As he was driving his new dream car out of the dealership, he saw another Porsche driving in.  Turning his head as the Porsche drove by he remarked to himself, “That was the one I wanted.”

Here’s the takeaway:  The journey is where it is.  Enjoy this moment for all the gifts of it.  Enjoy the challenge.  Enjoy the wonder of being alive with an opportunity to learn and grow.  Count your blessings every second and help others wherever possible to say “thank you” all the time.  When you catch yourself using If-then thinking, bring yourself into the present moment by saying, “I have all that I need within and around me.  I am in acceptance of all my life – its challenges and its joys.  I am blessed.”

I wish this for you.

Love and Acceptance,

Tommy Rosen

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Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction specialist. Check out his website here.

  • Great post–I really like that you added that the content state of mind is something that you work for.. it’s not a special gift that some people are born with and that others can only dream of.  It just takes practice (and lots of it)!

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  • sarah

    The only thing i personally have trouble with is staying in the present/appreciating what i already have whilst also working towards goals.
    As in – when i get grounded and content in the present i find i am able to handle &  ‘put up with’ things that aren’t making me happy – i choose to not let them affect me. for example – being in a job u don’t like or a living situation that is challenging.
    but then, wouldn’t it be better for my growth to work towards goals that will increase the flow of happy and reduce the amount of situations that don’t naturally make me happy? 
    so in the context of this blog, how can you try to make plans or take actions towards inviting in more happy or improving your situation whilst also appreciating what you have now? When i truly appreciate all i have now i don’t feel the ‘need’ to change anything, but i know that some changes would help my growth & i enjoy change. arrh! can’t get my head round this. any tips or pointers would be great xo

  • TDLer

    Really love this post, Tommy. Thank you so much.

  • Dawn

    I was living in the “if only”…. “if only the father of my youngest son would want to become a family so we can be a complete family”. I realize that me and my kids ARE a complete family and that if he isn’t willing to come along for the journey, then it is his loss. 
    I am free from living “if only”. Im a little angry I wasted 2.5 years on it, but I know now its a lesson learned, and it’s his loss, not ours. 
    Amazing how a tweak in thinking changes your whole perspective!

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  • Wendy

    Ah, great blog and vlog Tommy!  Thanks so much…this is helping me get over that certain someone…”if only he liked me….”  😉  Thanks again!

  • Nukrisgo322

    Thank you!  I am working toward a stressful, pass/fail goal and you reminded me that I should be grateful for the opportunity to be challenged in this way.  I will focus on the daily journey toward this deadline. Thanks!

  • Jacob

    Wonderful Vlog Tommy !!  and might I add…. “You Look MARVELOUS !”

  • The journey is where it is… too true. Living in the moment takes consistent and conscientious effort and I think that for some it can be easier to like with the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’ because it means not having to effect change. Am a strong believer in choosing to live, to be responsible for my reactions and not creating stories that then stop me from reaching my potential and my goals. Living for now, with an eye to the future, but that future is filled with possibilities if I choose to grab on to them and run.
    Thanks for sharing, Tommy.

  • Melanie

    I always look forward to your posts Tommy! They are usually in tune with my path, and most certainly what I need to hear and remember. Thank you!

  • tracy

    This is one of the main things I need to work on.  I live in the past constantly.  I struggle w/alcohol abuse & although I have grown so much, I still have a hard time enjoying life without alcohol.  Oh, I can & do, but I end up daydreaming about the “old days”.  I also use to pray to get out of a 15 year relationship where I was ignored, and I ended up getting into another one where I have too much attention. Thanks4article:) 

  • Thanks, Tommy!

    I appreciate you!

    Love, Yossarian

  • Joannedagenais

    Thank you Tommy :)))

  • Richard

    It’s better to use IF-THEN-SO. IF it’s cold outside THEN I will wear a jacket SO that I will be warm!