We all do it. Guilty as charged. Our brain's natural tendency is to play the “What If” or “If Only” game with itself.
What is the “What If, If Only I” game? It is when we look back on the past and say to ourselves, “What if ….” or we look at our present situation and ask “If only…”
What if you had dated a different person in high school? Would you be where you are today? Would you have met the people that have influenced you to become the person that you are right now? If you have them, would you have the kids that you have? Playing this game can be dangerous. We tend to daydream while doing it and imagine that “what if” would have caused us to be in a better place than we are right now.
Other “what if’s” that you may find could be:
- What if I had landed that job?
- What if I hadn’t made that purchase?
- What if I had majored in underwater basket weaving in college instead of what I did?
- What if I put myself out there and write for a blog?
- What if I hadn’t eaten that bad shrimp?
We often use the “what if’s” in life when we have faced a decision that has unforeseen consequences.
“If only” can be even worse. “If only” I would win the lottery, land that promotion, get a bigger house, get this or that my life would improve. Would it? One study showed that in Florida 70% of lottery winners spent every last dime of their winnings within 5 years. Annually the same study shows that 1% of lottery winners end up filing bankruptcy annually. In addition, 3% of the winners say that since winning they have had a decrease in their happiness. (To learn more about lottery winners you can visit: https://www.creditdonkey.com/lottery-winner-statistics.html)
Landing that promotion may not be all its cracked up to be. With the promotion comes more responsibility. With the increase in responsibility, what are you willing to give up. It has been said that you can have anything you want, just not everything. I can’t spend 100 hours at work and 100 hours of leisure with my family each week. It is just not possible. I can't create 32 hours of time from anything.
The bigger house? With it usually comes again more responsibility. The bigger mortgage, more to clean, higher power bills etc.
Playing these games pollute our mind with unrealistic expectations. They eat away at us like cancer, causing us self-doubt and more. Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t dream. Dreams are what advance the world to be a better place. Imagine what the world would be like if Edison hadn’t dreamed of a light bulb. The computer that you are reading this on right now wouldn’t be here, cars wouldn’t be safe to drive at night etc. Dreams can make the world a better place.
The issue comes when you hinge the dreams on the what if, if only I game. The dream of a lightbulb was not self-centered. Edison wasn’t going to invent the light bulb and keep it only to himself. Instead, he practiced carpe diem. He seized the day. He knew that if he could get a light to trap into a bulb that he could control then he would change the world.
How are you going to make the most of today? How are you going to change the world?