The Destructive Power of “If”

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter today regarding writing, and I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it was in relation to my plans for my writing. And I said something along the lines of, “If I can write 2000 words a day.” She stopped me right in the middle of my thought and said, “That’s not a good way of thinking about it.”

It took me a moment to figure out what I’d said, and what she was talking about, and then I saw it. The word “if”. There is no better hedge word in the English language. It allows for the possibility of failure, and when used for something that is entirely under your control, using the word pretty much facilitates failure. I’ve been using the word “if” to avoid commitment to my goals. Goals which are completely within my ability to control the outcome.

“If I can write 2000 words a day.” OF COURSE I can write 2000 words a day. It’s not an onerous chore. It’s a couple hours in the morning before work, or in the evening before bed. The question is not “if” I can write them. The question is “will” I write them. Will is the key. Effort. Choice. “If” And “Can” are not what we’re talking about. I have complete control over the choices I make. Do I want to write 2000 words a day? Yes. Do I want it more than I want to watch a movie? Do I want it more than I want to play World of Warcraft? Those are the questions I need to be asking.

What words are you using in the conversation in your head? Are you giving yourself opportunities to make excuses for why you’re not doing what you want to do, just by the choice of words you use to speak to yourself? Avoid “if I can” in areas where you are in complete control of the outcome. Change it to “I will” and see if that doesn’t improve your odds of doing what you set out to do.