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The Forgotten Question

In Life Lessons by Tommy Thompson5 Comments

I remember the scene vividly. It was after lacrosse practice one day when I was in high school. I was particularly frustrated with how I was playing at the time, but couldn’t figure out how to turn it around. I was bull-headed, thinking I knew better than anyone else, including the coach, how to get over this hump. What was interesting is that he didn’t yell at me at practice or pull me aside in the heat of my frustration. He waited. Then, after practice one day he looked at me and said, “If you ever learn to listen to someone else, you will be unstoppable.” I was speechless. My ego and pride were totally exposed.

A well-timed word can change the trajectory of an entire life.

Conversely, the right word spoken at the wrong time can wound deeply. Often, we know what to do in life, and may even know how to do it, but we neglect asking the forgotten question, “when.” In business, when we choose to launch a product or introduce a new service may spell the difference between success and failure. The right thing done at the wrong time becomes the wrong thing. Or as the Bible says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun” (Eccles: 3:1)

Timing affects everything.

The timing in beginning a new habit, like dieting or exercise, affects our chances of success.If I begin a habit before my resolve is firm, then my chances of establishing that habit are small. Poor timing in habit formation sabotages success. What is my stress level as I try to begin this new habit? Will an upcoming vacation disrupt my efforts? Am I really convinced that I need to change? Finding the sweetspot of timing is crucial if we really want to change.

Timing is an essential companion when we are seeking to do our best work.

I have learned that for me, I am twice as effective in the morning and half as effective late in the afternoon at most tasks. If I do not schedule my important tasks accordingly, then I am wasting my time. I can count on one hand the times I have written quality posts in the late afternoon. Knowing your personal internal clock multiplies your effectiveness.

The decision about when I engage in a difficult conversation impacts whether that conversation is well received or not. 

I believe in addressing hard conversations as soon as possible. I also know that if I do not consider whether I am ready to engage a hard topic, or whether the other person is ready to discuss the subject, then the chances of a positive outcome are next to zero. Timing and environment are everything when it comes to important communication.

When I start my day and when I end my day makes my day or diminishes my day.

We all have 24 hours in a day. Those 24 hours are not equal. Ask the person who regularly works a night shift. Even a relatively small change in waking time and bed time makes a huge difference. The compound effect of getting your waking time right is massive. Think seriously about this question – when is the optimal time for you to start your day? Once you answer that question, give every effort to make that your reality.

Attentiveness to the question “when is the best time?” affects all areas of life, from business to personal growth, from relationships to sleep. The more important the issue, the more critical is the proper timing. Whether a sensitive conversation, an important project, or developing a new habit, pause and consider the forgotten question, “when.”


  1. Thanks Dave! I hope our paths continue to cross. I enjoyed the small group the other day!

  2. Such a critical question to ponder! I find this to be especially true as a parent. Learning not to react and respond immediately is so helpful, but takes a lot of work to break ingrained patterns in my communication habits. Allowing that time and space in between when I realize something needs to be said and actually saying something definitely provides room for greater wisdom and clarity to flow. Only recently have I begun making real strides in this area, and still lots of room to grow. Thanks for the encouragement.

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