Friday, May 24, 2013

‘If Only’ and Its Relatives



I wonder what would happen if the words, even the concept or possibility of, ‘if only’ didn’t exist in any language. And while I’m at it, how about throwing in phrases and expressions like: I could have, I should have, maybe, possibly, perhaps, suppose, what if…

At times I find that the mere idea of something not working out (or not having worked out) the way we wish leads to doubt and frustration. So maybe (sorry, definitely) approaching situations differently could change our perspective.

Here are some examples:

A)       I wish I hadn’t gotten angry with [insert name] the other day. I should have stayed calm and worked things out then maybe we’d be talking now and having a good time instead of there being this barrier between us. If only I had stayed calm. If only…   

Possible Alternative:  You know what, a little anger never hurt anyone. I’ll go talk to [insert name] and apologize for losing my temper. It’s way too much energy staying mad.   
  
B)        If only I could win the lotto then I’d be happy. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, like traveling the world, endless shopping sprees, eating in fancy restaurants, and buying a house or two or three… I should have bought a ticket last night. Maybe I would have won! 

Possible [very idealistic] alternative: I am rich (bearing in mind that wealth is not all about money). I’m lucky I have good friends and a loving family.

C)        If only I could have the perfect figure 8 then I would be popular, sexy and happy.   

Possible Alternative: I’ll watch my diet and exercise so I can stay healthy. Once I become healthier, I’ll feel happier.

This list can continue ad infinitum, yet there is one constant I noticed as I was compiling it. Every ‘if only’, or its close or distant cousins, takes us out of the present moment and puts us in a position of ‘wanting other than that which exists’. We believe that by getting more of something, or by achieving a different scenario, life would be better, and we would be happier.

That’s not necessarily true. Rarely are we content for any length of time. Even when we attain our goals, we want more… which is fine, once this isn’t intertwined with feelings of discontent or imbued with thoughts of ‘if only’, ‘I should have’, etc. etc. 

I’m sure there are as many solutions as there are people. I’ll offer only one: focusing on the now and living in the moment (to the degree possible, of course).

Cats do it all the time. Maybe they’re on to something.






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