When Then vs. Now


This morning I met again with a dear friend of mine for coffee and conversation. Jack and I meet every two weeks, and even at my advanced age, he has become something of a mentor to me. Our conversation seems to always move towards important personal issues. I was lamenting about making big plans and then having conflicts regarding completing them.

I was reminded of my days as a counselor. I had a term for people that were always looking forward in their lives and having difficulties living in the here and now . I called them “When-Then” people. It was not meant to be derogatory, but more descriptive. Here is how it went. “When I move to Seattle, I’ll be happy.” or “When I get my degree, then I’ll get a satisfying job.” or “When the kids are grown up, then I can start playing golf.” You get my point.

Another therapist friend once told a story of one of his clients. The client had been involved in several affairs with women other than his wife. He went to my friend for counseling. In one session the client said something to the effect of, “I want to stop this behavior.” My friend responded, “Okay, so from this moment on, you’ll agree that you will have no more affairs or one-night stands.” The client paused and then responded, “No, I’m going on a business trip this week, I’ll stop when I get back.” These are obviously not the exact words, but are probably close. A more common example: I’m starting a diet tomorrow, but tonight I get to eat all I want, pass the chocolate cake.” In both examples, there’s some doubt about the honest commitment to change.

How does this relate to me? I’m the first in line to say – I want to loose weight. – I want to run another half-marathon. – I want to spend more time writing. – I want to eat a plant based diet. But somehow after writing pages of goals, creating schedules and checking out books from the library on the issues, I then have my own version of “When then.”

Jack asked me to do something while we were chatting. “Get up, walk to the water fountain and get a drink, then come back here.” I did what I was told. His point? Just get up and do something, start, pay attention to it and keep on doing it until it becomes part of me. On my way home, I thought about his words. I like the term Mindfulness. Paying attention to the NOW not what I want in the future, not to be a when-then person. Wise words on the part of my wise friend.

So, I’m going to be a more mindful Now person. You may notice I didn’t say I’m going to “try” to be a more mindful person, I’m going to be more mindful. I’m going to stop, be mindful and then follow through, one small step at a time. Now is all I have, I don’t have the past and I don’t have the future. I have only what we all have only – now.

I cannot think myself into a new way of living, I have to live my way
into a new way of thinking.” Claude Anshin Thomas

Go well, David