Have you ever seriously thought about the two words, “if only?” They are two words I used a lot when I was younger. Oh, of course, I still use them, but not in the serious manner I did as a young person. Consider the following dreamt-up examples of if-only statements.
If only I would win the lottery, then I couldn’t help but be happy.
If only I had gone into a different profession, then I would be rich.
If only my friends would help me, then I could solve my problems.
If only my parents had been different, then I wouldn’t have this low self-esteem.
If only I had some good luck, then I would be successful.
If only I had studied harder in school, then I would have a better job.
If only I would exercise, then I would have a great body.
If only I would stop smoking, then I could ride the bus.
If only I had known how good I had it, then I would have enjoyed the past.
If only …
Doesn’t it seem like, when “if only” is used in a statement, there’s often a transfer of blame? In a way, people who use it often seem to have what might be called an “if-only disorder.” They are usually blaming someone or something for their own problems, failures and/or unhappiness.
I remember, as a young person, often thinking and sometimes saying: “If only my Dad hadn’t died, I would be happy.” You see, my Dad was killed in a car accident when I was five years old. My Mother was badly hurt by the accident, but she survived, remarried and provided me with home. Looking back on my life as a young person after the accident, I now realize the many times I manifested the “if-only disorder.” Actually, it was more of an excuse than a disorder. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. I only thought: “Oh, poor me, if only my Dad …” and continued to blame my current problems on a past disaster.
What I didn’t realize, until I was eighteen years old, was how I was using my Dad’s death as a reason for not taking responsibility for my present life. In a twisted way, I used his death as an excuse for not taking responsibility of my current life. Between high school and college, I worked one year at McDonnell-Douglas (it’s now Boeing) and while working there, I had an “Ah-ha experience” regarding the “if-only disorder” and my Dad. I came to the realization that I was stumbling through my life and assuming others were more responsible for my life than I was. The main part of the realization was that I should and could no longer blame my unhappiness on the death of my Father. After that, I enrolled in college and literally divorce myself from the “if-only disorder” regarding my Dad.
A few years ago, I saw the movie, “If Only.” The movie, though confusing for me in the beginning, provided me with an interesting perspective of death and “if only.” The movie plays-out different scenarios based on “what-iffing.” For me, because of the movie’s name and how it portrays those that are left after death, it brought back memories of my “if-only disorder” and helped me realize how it caused me to be anxious and often unable to celebrate anyone else’s successes. Under the “if-only disorder,” I would see someone else’s success and say to myself, “If only my Dad hadn’t died, …” — Ouch!
So, what is the lesson I learned from my “if-only disorder?” After much thought, here’s my humble attempt at putting it into words.
The lesson is summarized into four principle statements.
1. Replace blame with hope.
2. Stop looking for fault and start setting goals.
3. Give up “if only” and adopt “Be present in the present.”
4. Take responsibility for successes AND failures.
What do you think about “if only?” Is “if only” a disorder? If only you would comment, then I would know! :-)