Adrian Savage has a terrific post today about the destructive power of "if only." One of the very best things I ever did for my mental health was to stop getting stuck with how the world should be and accept how it was in the moment. Collins calls this confronting the brutal facts, and considers is one of the critical differences between good and great companies. I think my grandfather started this process for me, but it took me years (decades) to take it to heart. I used to whine frequently about the unfairness of the world or my life. I can still remember his patient calm voice telling me "Cathy, life isn’t fair." For me, the best thing about giving up the "if only" is that it allows me to move forward where I used to get stuck. This changes a situation from "If only the milk had not spilled" to "OK the milk spilled, where’s the towel?" Or, perhaps more clearly, from a situation of inaction and hand-wringing to a situation of action and problem solving. I’m much more comfortable in the latter.
My favorite paragraph from the post is this one: "Don’t let "if only" ruin your life. There will always be something you lack; some action another takes that isn’t what you wanted; some aspect of yourself that isn’t as you would like it to be; some piece of timing, or element of recognition, or standard of performance, or degree of attention that falls short of how you imagine it might be. Any of these can bring your progress to a halt, and hand you a sheaf of excuses for giving up or stepping away."