Just as a golfer picks which club to use based on the kind of shot he’s facing, leaders choose which type of thoughts they’ll use depending on the situation facing them. Of all the types of thinking, perhaps none are more important than ‘If-Then’ thinking.
“A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.” – James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
What is ‘If-Then’ thinking? To think ‘If-Then’ is to infer. ‘If-Then’ thinking is inferring something from something else. For example, when my young son enters the house sweating profusely, face beet-red, huffing and puffing and plops down on the couch, I infer something from what I observe. I infer that his sweating means its hot outside, that he likely ran to get here and that he needs a little rest. Brilliant, I know:)
But what happens if I’m wrong? If I mis-think, then what? I’ve listed below 15 ‘If-Then’ mental mistakes every leader should avoid.
- ‘If-Then’ Filtering: IF I get one B on my report card, THEN I can’t be happy.
- ‘If-Then’ Black or White: IF I’m not totally good, THEN I’m totally bad.
- ‘If-Then’ Overgeneralization: IF this date doesn’t go well, THEN no dates in the future will go well either.
- ‘If-Then’ Jumping to Conclusions: If she doesn’t smile at me, THEN she’s mad at me.
- ‘If-Then’ Catastrophizing: IF a thief robbed my neighbor’s house, THEN they’re sure to rob mine.
- ‘If-Then’ Personalization: IF we arrive late to the party, THEN the hostess will overcook the meal.
- ‘If-Then’ Control Fallacies: IF my work is poor in quality, THEN it’s because my boss is demanding too much over time from me.
- ‘If-Then’ Fallacy of Fairness: IF I don’t make the basketball team, THEN I’m not being treated fairly.
- ‘If-Then’ Blame: IF I feel bad about myself, THEN it’s because you made fun of me.
- ‘If-Then’ Shoulds: IF I enter the race, THEN I should win.
- ‘If-Then’ Emotional Reasoning: IF I feel stupid, THEN I must really be stupid.
- ‘If-Then’ Fallacy of Change: IF I say the right thing, THEN that will make him give me what I want.
- ‘If-Then’ Labeling: IF I fail, THEN I’m a failure.
- ‘If-Then’ Always being right: IF I say it’s true, THEN it’s true.
- ‘If-Then’ Reward Fallacy: IF I pay my dues, THEN I’ll be recognized eventually.
Gauge, guard and guide your ‘If-Then’ thinking as a leader. Pay attention to it. How? Go deep inside yourself and discover what you’re telling yourself. You’ll come to better understand yourself as you practice 3 Disciplines:
1. Meditation – Go to a quiet place. Get into a comfortable sitting position. Slow your breathing. Quiet your mind…
2. Introspection – Begin to focus on how you’re feeling. Hear what you’re saying. Ask yourself questions. Have a conversation with yourself. Commune with your spirit and with God…
3. Reflection – Sense what you’re experiencing. Consider what you’re learning. Review what was revealed to you during your time of introspection. Record your insights in a journal.
The ancient proverbs reminds us, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” As you think ‘If-Then’ thoughts, so you will be!