IF...THEN

In my work as a school psychologist, I had the opportunity to write many behavior plans for students.


One of the strategies that I often used was “If…Then” statements (known as the Premack Principle or "Grandma's Law.") You have probably used this strategy unknowingly with your children or even to help with your own motivation. This is how it works:

If you eat your broccoli…then you can have dessert.

If you do your math homework….then you can play outside.

If you stop crying…then you can come out of your room.

If you work for ten minutes…then you can have a break.



If…Then statements can be very effective in behavior modification. However, in recent days I am seeing a whole new kind of “If…Then” statement that has me not so supportive of them. These “If…Then” statements go like this.


If you wear a mask then you _________________.

If you don’t wear a mask then you _____________________.

If you vote for ___________ then you don’t care about ___________________.

If you are a republican/democrat/independent then you _____________________.

If you send your kids to school then you ______________________.

If you don’t send your kids to school then you ________________________.

If you watch _________ news then you ____________________.

If you go to _______________ church then you ____________________.

If you go out to a public place then you ___________________.

If you stay home then you _____________________.

If you are a white man/woman then you ________________.

If you are a black man/woman then you _______________________.

I could go on and on, but you see where I’m going with this (I hope).


One of the things that I love the very most about the Enneagram is that once you understand it, you realize that 9 people with 9 different Enneagram numbers could do the exact same thing but have 9 different reasons for doing it. The Enneagram examines motivation or the “why” behind behavior rather than the “what”.


When we begin to make blanket statements about anyone’s behavior, we commit what Beth McCord calls “assumicide”. Without having real conversations and relationships with one another, we are only assuming we know why anyone does anything. I recently heard a podcast guest say, “We judge our own behaviors by our motives, but the behavior of others by their actions.” To take this a step further, scripture tells us that God sees the heart when man judges the outward appearance. God looks at our motives.

In the words of my dear friend Tara Gant, “Can we just assume positive intentions?” Life is so hard for so many right now. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we drop all of the assumptions and the “IF you this THEN you that” accusations? If you truly want to know what someone believes, kindly ask them. Proximity helps immensely with understanding another’s perspective. Talk with others who appear to believe differently than you. LISTEN to others who may believe differently than you. But let us PLEASE stop making blanket statements about anyone based on our assumptions and let go of the finger pointing and the judgment when others make choices different than our own.

Finally, as Christians, may this be our guiding “If…Then” statement.

“IF you love one another, THEN everyone will know you are my disciples.” John 13:35


Hang in there friends, we ARE going to survive this and I pray we come out stronger and better on the other side.





Through On Purpose Coaching I have created the tools you need to develop skills for more intentionality in your life. By providing opportunities for group or individual coaching, online courses, weekly blogs, podcasts, live events, team building seminars, Bible studies and more, I help you improve relationships and live abundantly with purpose. I hope this will become a community of support for you in the days ahead. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram and check out my website http://www.stephanicook.org. Let's connect. I'd love to hear from you!

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© 2019 by Stephani Cook.

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