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by • March 6, 2013 • Leading, Leaders and LeadershipComments (1)1321

When I and While I

With so much to look forward to this month and this year, I’ve found myself starting more than a few sentences with “When I …”

“When I get to NASPA …” (Can’t wait to see everyone in Orlando!)

“When I have time …” (Because it seems to be in even shorter supply in March)

“When my leadership summit is over …” (Who thought logistical planning along with curriculum development at the same time was a good idea? Oh, right …)

“When the weather gets warmer …” (Seriously weather, enough with the cold.)

For each time I saw ‘when’, I fix my sights on the future, on a goal or event yet to come. I think long term but I think end result. I think about the final product.

“When I …” is exciting. The thrill of anticipation can keep us going and motivate us to work on short term tasks for long(er) term gain. “When” gives us something to aim for, to strive for – done right, “when” is the finish line at the end of our personal or professional marathon.

“When I …”, however, is also dangerous. We wait for when. We hold out for the next time, the better time, and the right time. When gets up on a pedestal as an ideal situation, place, or condition for action.

While we wait for when, let’s not forget the while.

“While I …” shifts the focus to process – the messy in-between. We work in while. Walking the path, we have opportunities to fail, chances to succeed, and moments of learning that make arriving at the when perhaps the least remarkable part of our journey. We develop skills, make connections and bring people along for the ride. We see, feel, and own the process, valuing the doing as much as, if not more than, the done.

Remember that it isn’t always about the destination. What does your journey look like? Will you start sentences today with “When I …” or “While I …”?

NOTE: I’m borrowing heavily in this post from my ‘Daring to Teach’ TEDx talk. Have a listen below:

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One Response to When I and While I

  1. Great distinction to make! Rupturing my Achilles’ tendon definitely taught me this lesson: if I decided to wait until “When I’m off these crutches / back walking again / fully healed”, I wouldn’t be doing a heck of a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to take a good hard look at what I’m capable of, but I’m not turning down opportunities just because getting around has become a bit of challenge. Maybe I should make “While I’m on the mend” my mantra, instead of longing for “When I’m better”.

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