The Problem with “If Only…”
Mid Week Musings #263
How often have you found yourself in a regrettable situation only to find yourself saying “If Only….”?
If Only ….
It’s an interesting h phrase isn’t it?
It’s often used to lament the choices you did not make, even if at that particular point in the past other options were just not available to you.
Hindsight is a damning thing.
What would happen if you accepted that you’re always making the best choices you can with the resources (knowledge, skills, experience and awareness) you have at the time you made the choice?
“If Only” thinking is the result of reflecting on a choice of the perspective of having more (or different) resources.
Now if you’re seeking to understand past choices and learn from them then “If Only” can be very useful. However, we often find ourselves using that phrase from a position of self-recrimination. This is less than useful.
This often overly complicated term simply refers to the idea of “cause and effect”,
Where you are now is a consequence of your previous choices and behaviours. So we could thing of “If Only” as being one way we want to avoid taking responsibility for our past.
Ok, I get that that is a bit harsh, but it is an interesting perspective.
Perhaps a kinder way of saying the same thing is that “If Only” is a sign that there are things to learn.
Getting lost in a labyrinth of choices you could have made is not that empowering. However, using what you have learned to make better choices in the now is.
A Taoist Story
A man hated seeing his footprints behind him and his shadow.
He thought he could outrun them, so he ran fast.
But the footprints and shadow were still there.
He reasoned he wasn’t running fast enough and increased his speed.
He kept running faster and faster until he finally collapsed from exhaustion and died.
If only he’d simply stopped moving, there would have been no footprints.
If only he’d stopped in the shade, there would have been no shadow.
The key word here is “stopped”.
We need to stop still long enough to reflect upon our choices so that we don’t keep running around in ever decreasing circles of self defeat and suffering.
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