Overcoming the “Once I Have” Mindset

Published by Thriving Erin on


Once I have a better job, I’ll spend more time with my family.


Once I’m married, I’ll travel the world.


Once I have finished this project, I’ll help out more around the house.


Once I have graduated, I’ll lose some weight.


Once the kids are older, we’ll finally take that holiday.


Once I have retired, I’ll organize the basement.


There’s a good chance you’ve heard someone say something along these lines at some point, it’s a good chance it may even have been you who said something like this. You also probably know that most statements like this never actually come true.


On the journey of learning to live more intentionally, the “once I have“ mindset  is extremely dangerous. These statements identify someone who has made the choice to give up control and if you find yourself making statements like these, you need to do some serious re-assessing.


There are two ways to get out of this mindset.

  1. If these things have value, do them now.
  2. If they don’t have value, stop talking about them.


Let’s take the statement: Once I have graduated, I’ll lose some weight.


If you think there is value to losing weight and it is important to you, don’t put it off. Do it now! Buy a fitbit. Take the stairs. Stick to a meal plan. Join a gym. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something. Take action.


If, on the other hand, you’re content carrying around an extra 15lbs, you don’t want to stop eating ice cream, and you only talk about losing weight because of social pressure, then just own it. Stop talking about something you’re never going to want to do. Taking control of your life and living intentionally is about knowing what you want and pursuing it, so if this isn’t important to you, stop giving time and energy to thinking about it.


It’s also important to note that the “once I have” mindset is not the same as setting long-term goals. For example, saying, “Once the kids are older we’ll finally take that holiday” is very different than saying, “In three years, after Jenny graduates, let’s take that trip to Italy we’ve always wanted. If we set aside $100 every month until then, we’ll be able to afford it.” In this second statement, you’re still taking action now by setting money aside each month.


These “once I have” statements are dangerous because they allow us to justify inaction. We don’t feel like we’ve given up because, after all, it’s not that I’ll never learn a new language. I’ll just do it tomorrow, or maybe next week, or next month, or next year. But the reality is, until we change our mindset, we will never do it.


From a young age, I have loved reading and writing. I could easily spend an entire day with a book. In my last year of high school, for the first time in my life, I didn’t get an ‘A’  in English and my teacher told me, “Some people just aren’t good writers.” After this, I continued to read voraciously, but I stopped writing. This past summer I completed Seth Godin’s altMBA. Though the amount of work made for an intense 5 weeks, I absolutely loved it. The amount of writing I had to do reignited my passions and challenged me to do something about it, to create something. During the program, I set the goal of starting a blog by the start of September.


Then, life happened.

Things were crazy, my husband and I were both stressed out, and I had no energy.


The idea of starting a blog, something I knew absolutely nothing about, sounded overwhelming. I had to research how to get a domain name, how to create a website, how to get an email address, and what felt like a million other things. I knew nothing! Then, after all that, I had to actually create content. I had some real things going on in my life, I could have easily postponed, I would have been justified in pushing my timeline back. But deep down, I knew that if I did that, I would never start again. So I pushed through.


If your “once I have” statements are about something you actually want to do, something you think is important, I promise you that actually starting them will be worth it. Making progress will be rewarding and motivating because you will be making the choice to take charge of your life. We can’t be in control of everything that happens in our lives, but we can choose where we will apply ourselves, where we will put the effort in.


So next time you hear yourself make a “once I have” statement, remember:

If these things have value, do them now.

If they don’t have value, stop talking about them.




Maria · December 16, 2018 at 10:09 pm

Hi Erin, thank you for sharing this great blog full of deep insights and actionable next steps.

I want to dig deeper into this assertion: “These “once I have” statements are dangerous because they allow us to justify inaction.” I wonder what makes people tell themselves this story. What fears may be hindering their wants? How can you help them recognize them and address them?

Thank you,

    Steven Thompson · December 18, 2018 at 2:11 am

    Thank you for writing this, and I am glad that you started writing again, and I am sorry that you had to hear a comment like that from an educator. This was a very thoughtful post. I like how you point out the trap that we walk into when we are in the Once I have it mindset, to me you are correct about giving over control, we are looking for something in the future to make us happy, and these things aren’t bad, but they rob of us of the joy of experiencing what we have in the present moment. Thank you for swimming against the tide of our culture and writing a very encouraging post. Looking forward to reading more!

    Thriving Erin · December 19, 2018 at 8:39 am

    Hi Maria, thanks for the comment. I love the ‘digging deeper’ questions. I think there are so many things that contribute to creating this mindset. I think we definitely see the fear of failure, people are afraid to get started and commit to something because they’re worried they’ll end up failing, and sometimes we just don’t know where to start! I also think it stems from a wrong view of failure. We often think anything less than perfect is failure.

    I think we also see this mindset increasing because of different social pressures. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and as a result we talk about doing things that we don’t really think are important. We will always put things off because we don’t actually identify with them or value them, but the social pressure to do what we see on instagram every day can be overwhelming and we start to feel like we ‘should’ be doing something.

    This is a deep an complicated topic, I could go on-and-on, perhaps I’ll need to write another post about it . . .

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