‘What if?’: A dangerous contemplation

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Sometimes I run late. I don’t like doing it, but with a killer commute to work every morning, it can happen.

Sometimes I can’t help wondering, “What if …?”

What if I hadn’t let that car go in front of me?

What if I’d been more aggressive merging?

What if the light had stayed green just a smidge longer?

Or if I hadn’t grabbed that granola bar on my way out the door?

What if the person in the left lane had actually gone faster than the person in the right lane?

The little things can make a big difference. Being even 1 minute late is almost worse than being 10 minutes late because you’re so close.

The problem with “what ifs,” of course, is that they don’t do you any good. You’re already late, so what’s the use in wondering what could have happened? You can’t change anything.

It reminds me of a scene from The Lion King. (Yes, I’m digging way back on this one.)

As a kid, my favorite part of the movie was when grownup Simba and his crazy old baboon friend Rafiki are standing in the wide open plains one night, having a heart to heart. Simba knows it’s time to go back home and face his past, but says it won’t be easy. He’s right in the middle of his reflection when out of nowhere, Rafiki bops him on the head with his staff.

Simba winces, then asks why he did it.

“It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” Rafiki shouts.

I always thought the surprising blow and the loony baboon’s subsequent thrills were hilarious, but the dude had a point.

Dwelling on the past and replaying “what if” scenarios in your head gets you nowhere. It’ll drive you nuts, at best.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “It is what it is.” Not exactly Shakespeare, but I think these five little words are a great reminder when we want to whine about something. Another way to sum it up: “accept it and move on.”

Now I do think there’s a caveat, times you should try everything in your power to go back and make it right—ask forgiveness or repair a relationship maybe—but sometimes there’s really nothing you can do. Letting “what ifs” ping back and forth in your head will only serve as a handicap to getting on with it.

After the baboon hits Simba in the head, he makes this statement: “The past can hurt,” he says, “but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Running late, making a mistake or wondering what could have been might not necessarily hurt, but it can be annoying, frustrating or discouraging.

The good news is that we have a choice: let it get to us or learn from it and keep going.




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