There's a saying I often refer to: If we are depressed, we are living in the past. If we are anxious, we are living in the future. And if we are at peace, we are living in the present. But for most of us, living in the present doesn’t come easily. There always seems to be that nagging “What if…” lingering out there. What if I had made better choices when I was younger? What if I had taken that other job? What if my current relationship doesn’t work out? What if I lose my savings on this investment?
Our current conditioning promotes the sorrowful aspects of the What Ifs. We are taught from a very young age that regret is a part of life and that our future is a mystery, through the words of our parents and our friends, through social norms, and even in the music we listen to. A quick Google search for “regret songs” turned up list after list, page after page of “popular songs about regret.” One list even boasted “Top 57 songs about regret.” Just reading the lists exhausted me. For far too long we have been stuck in this mindset that this is just the way it is. But what if we chose to stop believing that?
Let's take a look at the truth of what’s really happening when we focus on the negative facets of What If. Directing our attention to the downside of anything consumes so much of our precious time and energy on the illusion of control. And the need for control limits our ability to see from a multifaceted perspective and holds us back from our highest potential. What if, instead, we used that time and energy to focus on something that makes us happy right now. What if we look around us and find at least one thing to be grateful for. How would your perspective change?
What if, just for a moment, we sit with what is instead of what was or what could be? Try this simple exercise: Sit with your thoughts for a moment. All of them; the good, the bad, the ugly. Do not give these thoughts your energy by judging them, just accept them as they are. Then shift your thought process to this: The past is full of lessons, not regrets. The future is full of potential, not uncertainty. And today, in this moment, I get to choose my next step in order to bring together the lessons of the past and the potential of my future. Write down your answer(s), again, without judgement and reflect on how this new way of thinking feels.