It’s normal to ask ourselves whether the decisions they got us to this point were good ones. This often manifests in the way of: “I wonder where I’d be now if…”
But here’s the thing: life is too short to spend each day dwelling on the one before it. If you go through life like that, you end up missing it. There are too many variables, too many decisions that we make, on which we could put the blame. It’s exhausting and it’s fruitless (you can’t change the past) and so is a tremendous waste of our time.
Rather than retrospectively wondering “what if?” instead ask yourself, right now, what you need to be happy in the future. (That’s the basis of the “what if?” question, isn’t it? The implication that you might have been happier had you done things differently.) Take the time to define those ideals early on, before the decisions get really big, and use them as the standard against which to measure decisions. What do you value? What do you want out of life? What ideals do you hold? Really devote some time to it – don’t simply write down the list everybody has. Write your own. And with each decision, ask yourself: “does this fit with my ideals?”
Don’t compare your decisions to those that others have made. Instead, compare them against your own list of ideals. Sure, Bob has a new Mercedes. But you didn’t want a Mercedes, remember? You want to retire early and write ethnic cookbooks. So cool it with the Joneses and forget the standards of Corporate America. They have their own list of ideals – we all do.
If you spend your life serving somebody else’s, you’re going to wake up one day with a hollow place in your stomach where yours has been neglected.
And, if you’re still left with nagging “what if?” questions, instead ask yourself: am I happy? Not “could I be happier?” There’s always, in our own little heads, a “happier” – something more we think we could have – so the answer to whether or not we could be happier will always be “yes,” making us feel that we didn’t do enough. Don’t hold yourself to a mirage on the horizon. Simply ask: “Are our values being upheld?” and “Am I happy with things?”
If the answer is no, you either need to change your perspective on life or the things with which you’ve built yours. Or both. But before you make changes, be sure to define what you want out of life.
If the answer is yes – that you are happy – then there’s nothing to be asking “what if?” about to begin with. You done good.