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James R. Stout

The What If Game

            Have you ever played the “what if” game? Of course, you have. I think that everybody has played that game at some point in their life. I know some people who claim to have absolutely no regrets in their life. While that would be nice, I just don’t think it’s possible to not have a few regrets. That said, I believe that John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival had the right idea when he sang, “I never lost one minute of sleepin’ worryin’ ‘bout the way things might have been.” Oh, if that were true.

            Playing the “what if game” can be addictive, and it can also throw roadblocks into your future’s path. If you start playing that game, then it just may end up being a loop in your head that can drive you nuts. But here’s the thing about that game. If you could actually go back and change something, then every time that you did it would likely erase not only the parts you wish to change, but also some good parts. Here’s a serious one. What if you wished you had never met your ex-wife? You might focus on all the bad stuff that came along and ultimately caused the marriage to fail. But if you really did go back and never met your ex, then you would miss out on all the good times that you won’t allow yourself to focus on. The fun times before the other stuff. What about your children? Your grandchildren? Would you go back and erase all of those things and more importantly, those people? I sure wouldn’t.

            I take a different viewpoint on regrets. First, you’re going to have some. They may be very minor or may be extremely major. But you’re going to have some. The key is not to dwell on them and, in turn, lose more than a moment of sleeping worrying about how things might have been. Second, if you’re going to regret something and it’s something that you really wish had been different, then try to figure out if there is a safe way to overcome the regret and rectify it. It is quite common for someone who is facing death to seek out the people that they have wronged and to apologize. The person may or may not accept the apology, but you did your best to show them that you’re sorry for having wronged them. There are times when a heartfelt apology can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Finally, no matter what else you do in life, you need to make peace with yourself and with the fact that life is linear and goes in only one direction. Ultimately, all the wishing in the world isn’t going to change what was and now is. So, learn to get over it.

            I spend a lot of time thinking about my life and my past. But I don’t play the what if game now. If you read my blog and writings, then you should already be aware that for the most part when I reflect on something in my past it’s done so with an attitude of “it is what it is” and I generally reflect on the good and positive things of my past as opposed to the negative things. Take my word for it when I say that there are a lot of negative moments that I could choose to dwell on, but I am not going there. It’s a waste of time and energy. Two things that we all eventually run out of in this life.

            So, dear friends, do what the old song says and, “Accentuate The Positive”. If you’re going to think about things in the past, then think about the good times and the good decisions that you made. Try not to wish that things were different, because the fact is this will not change anything. Stop pressing on a bruise. It only causes pain and makes you focus on the pain rather than the good things.

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