If Only

There are numerous reasons why the word life has the big/little word “if” in the middle.  As we go through our lives our experiences give us opportunities to make many choices. As we age we are pleased with a lot of these choices we have made.  On the other hand, few people can look back on the years without having some second thoughts.  After all, we know that hind sight is better than fore-sight.  Right?   God gave each one of the right to have free will.  Unfortunately, we sometimes have regrets over some of the choices we have made.  Then we catch ourselves living in the “If only” stage of life.  If only I had been richer, prettier, smarter, had a better job, a different car!  If only I had exercised more, eaten more nutritionally, quit smoking!  The list goes on and on. 

The first cousin to “if only” is “I should have.”  I should have spoken up and said more or I should have kept my mouth shut.  I should have listened better.  I should have seen it coming.  I should have worked harder.  Another list goes on and on.  Stop and think about the decisions you have made or chosen not to make over the years.  Take out two pieces of paper and at the top of one write the words “If only” and at the top of the other piece write “I should have.”  Then take a few minutes to write down a list of the statements you have made over the years in each column.

Life presents us with many choices and opportunities.  Some of them we will like and others will leave us feeling sorry for ourselves.  But as mentioned in an earlier article about forgiving ourselves, we need to learn to acknowledge that we are human and everyone makes mistakes.  I started this year writing an article about New Year’s Resolutions.  A good way for us to end the year is to decide to replace the negative language of “if only” and/or “I should have” with a positive statement.  The next time you catch yourself starting to say one of these negatives, choose to start your thoughts with “Even if ______.”   For example, instead of saying “If only my best friend hadn’t moved away” you can say something like “Even if my friend moved away we can still visit each other, write or e-mail each other to stay in touch.”   People who don’t enjoy their jobs can ustain themselves with thoughts  like “Even if this isn’t the best job, I can do my best and work to develop a good reputation that will help me get a better job.”

Identify your biggest negative thought and think over how you can replace it with a positive statement.  A good way to end this year is to put aside negative thoughts so that you can begin the new year with positive thoughts and feelings that will result in positive behaviors.  Replace the “if” in your life with a great resolution for a better year ahead.