Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

Five Actions to Deal With “If Only”

If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. — Don Meredith

If “ifs” and “buts” were pots and pans, there’d surely be dishes to do.


Wishing for something in our past to change won’t make one bit of difference. I’m not talking about grieving our losses – there is a place for that. What I am talking about is staring far too long regretfully at the past mistakes and misfortunes.

IF ONLY defined:

  • it is used to express a wish
  • it is usually spoken while looking back regretfully

Keep IF but drop ONLY

We don’t have to let IF ONLY paralyze us from living. Learn to drop “only” and add “if” to words and ideas that move your focus to your present and future and away from the unmet expectations of the past.

If there is something to gain and
nothing to lose by asking, by all means ask!
— W. Clement Stone

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. — Ghandi

If I always do what I’ve always done,
I’ll get what I’ve always gotten.

Five Actions to Take Back the Ground “IF ONLY” Stole

  • Try

I’d rather go through life saying “at least I tried” rather than “if only I had tried.”

You can spend your days regretting the choices you didn’t make or you can commit to getting up every day and using the talent, energy and resources you have to make a difference. I’m learning to focus not on what I’ve lost because of our accident but to focus on what can I do with what I have?

  • Go ahead and fail

Permission to fail is a gift you can give yourself. It helps release you from the paralysis that comes from insecurity and fear due to stepping out.

I would rather live my life with mistakes made and lessons
learned than to live it full of regrets,
if only and what could have been. –
Author unknown

  • Get into action

It’s very difficult to be keep saying “if only” if you are focused on getting into gear and getting into life changing action. When you help people, change your scenery, talk to a stranger, listen to a hurting friend, write a poem, your mood changes and so does your life.

You can stand there thinking, “if only,”
or you can go and take charge and change it.
Author unknown

  • Make some art

Seth Godin says that art contains three elements: 1) art is made by a human being; 2) art is created to have an impact, to change someone else; and 3) art is a gift. “Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.”

What is your art?

  • Practice “nexting”

Several years ago I learned a technique that I’ve used successfully to this day – it’s called “nexting.” It’s the practice of putting your focus on what you’ll do next instead of obsessing on how you messed up.

For example, if you lock your keys in your car, instead of beating yourself up, say, “Next time when I get out of my car, I will reach into my pocket and make sure I can jingle my keys before shutting the door.”

In what way do you spend too much time saying “if only?”
What practice will you embrace today?

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

3 Replies

  1. barlowrw

    Looking forward. All day long I look forward. As night falls I look back and talk to God. I leave the mistakes with Him and ask Him to make tomorrow better. Thanks Cam.

    1. Great advice for daily living – thanks for adding it as food for thought.

  2. Shirlene Henning

    Great thoughts, again. “If only” I had this to read, years ago!!

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