Allen’s story is one that’s experienced in many families. His mother isn’t doing well. His dad is terrified by the inevitable changes that are coming. Allen has moved so he can be with his parents and take care of the ongoing and upcoming challenges. His wife can’t join him now, so the situation is not only emotionally draining but also logistically difficult.
While the details will vary, I suspect that you could tell a similar story, whether it’s about yourself or someone you know.
If so, then I’m hoping that you will find this comment from Allen useful. He wrote, “I’m continually reminded that life isn’t defined by our challenges, but by how we deal with those challenges.”
Bad things happen, and it is inevitable that bad things will continue to happen. While I sincerely hope that our past, present, and future is not defined by only bad things, the reality is that there will be some. How do we want to define our lives in the face of that reality?
One way of dealing that’s often used is to go into “if only” mode. For example, “If only this hadn’t happened. If only I had people to support me. If only there was a cure,” and so on. Essentially, this approach boils down to, “If only things were different.” The sentiment is understandable, even heartbreaking. If only bad things didn’t happen. I agree. If only, indeed.
You’ll want to assess this for yourself, but it strikes me that the “if-only” approach contributes a sense of helplessness to the situation. Does the pleading help make the situation better? Different people are different, and perhaps, for some, it does help.
However, if you find that “if only” isn’t working well for you, then here’s a suggestion. Instead of “If only” try “Even if.”
For example, “Even if times get hard, I will find a way.”
Even if I never achieve all of my goals, I will be grateful for the ones that I have achieved.
Even if I don’t have all the good relationships I want, I will appreciate the ones I have. Even if they are not perfect.
Even if parts of the world are profoundly troubled, I will look for hope.
Even if the break I am hoping for never comes, I will persist in doing the best I can.
Even if I have troubles that may never get resolved, I will take actions that move me toward resolving the troubles that I can.
Changing the approach that we take may not change the ultimate outcome of the situation. Much is out of our control. But changing our approach could, for example, turn a challenge with a loved one from fear-filled anger to comforting support. It could make the difference between being a positive contributor versus a resentment-driven detractor. It could make a difference in your life, and in someone else’s.
As we go through life, we will find ourselves in uncharted territory. Are we up to what is required of us? There’s no guarantee. However, I’ll leave you with another of Allen’s thoughts, “Every day brings, for all of us, a new page in an adventure book we have no choice but to finish reading.”
We are in the adventure, whether we chose it or not. We may as well lean in to the challenge and do the best that we can. Even if we’re not sure where, exactly, it may lead.
What do you think? Might the “even-if” approach be an effective counterpoint to “if-only”?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom