At some point in our lives, each and every one of us has done some conditional bargain with ourselves or a higher power. You know exactly what I’m talking about even if you haven’t thought of it in these terms before. The conditional bargaining equation always looks something like this: “IF I get THIS, THEN I’ll do THAT.” Here are a few examples:
- "If I get this job, then I’ll finally propose to my girlfriend."
- "If I survive this illness, then I’ll make sure I don’t take this life for granted."
- "If I get this promotion, then I’ll stop working so much."
- "God, if you can find a way to help me through this mess, then I’ll finally start eating right and working out."
"If / Then" conditional bargaining is a part of everyday life for a lot of us. Many of us struggle through our lives, somehow surviving our trials and tribulations, and we make agreements with ourselves, or our God, to be better people ONLY IF something else works out in our lives. It’s a cyclical and maddening process that usually results in nothing really getting done. Life is hard. Life is an up-hill struggle, and for the most part bargaining simply doesn’t work.
If you want to survive this life, I advise you to stop bargaining. Stop proposing conditional circumstances to yourself that have the potential to allow you to not follow through on the ‘THEN’ part of the equation.
Here’s an exercise to help you understand why this is so important to your everyday life. Think back on all the “If / Then” conditional bargaining you’ve ever done with yourself or God. Make a list of all the “Then” portions of those bargains, and take a look at the things you’re NOT doing because you’re putting something else first. Let’s use the above example bargains as samples:
- "Then I’ll finally propose to my girlfriend."
- "Then I’ll make sure I don’t take this life for granted."
- "Then I’ll stop working so much."
- "Then I’ll finally start eating right and working out."
It really changes your perspective on those examples when you remove the “If” portion of the bargain, and simply turn these conditions into goals. Ultimately that’s what conditional bargaining really is; it is a subconscious way that we reveal to ourselves what is most important in our lives, and what we really want to do with the time we have on this planet.
Let’s take the exercise a step further. Remove the “Then” modifier from the above statement, and change the tense of each sentence to an active goal.
- "I will propose to my girlfriend."
- "I won’t take this life for granted."
- "I will stop working so much."
- "I will start eating right and working out."
What’s interesting about this process of extraction and reduction of a bargaining statement is that we discover what we value in our lives. We value our relationships. We know that we need to take better care of ourselves. And at some level we all know what we NEED to survive this life… for the most part we just don’t do it because we’re not motivated, lazy, or afraid of failure—-afraid to admit to ourselves what we really want for fear that we may not get it.
All I can tell you is that bargaining is a path to failure. The majority of the time we won’t ever get the things we really want in life unless we’re willing to fight for them. If something is important to you then it’s on your shoulders to go out and get it; don’t make up conditions in which it’s okay to fail… You’re better than that!
Surviving this life means that you have to be willing to put yourself on the line, even if you might fail. You won’t ever fail if you don’t try… but then again you’ll also never get what you want out of life.