An old friend kicked this bucket over for me.  Thanks a lot!


I’m told that when I was a kid I asked my dad incessant “What if” questions.  I don’t remember this vividly but I guess my “what ifs” were kind of out there, like “What if a monster came after you?” that kind of stuff.  Apparently I did a lot of hanging over the back of the front seat yammering these questions into his ear and he always answered them.  Maybe he shouldn’t have.

Maybe I needed to hear at a young age there weren’t answers sometimes or that my questions were just sort of silly.  Maybe if I’d heard that as a kid I would have stopped asking questions.  Maybe if I knew the realities of the world I wouldn’t have continued to ask those questions of myself up until today.  Maybe.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down being inquisitive or curious or even looking for answers.  I truly think we should be and do all of these, it’s just some things can’t be answered.  And we should be okay with that too.  We should be all right with the fact we can’t and won’t ever know everything.

We can’t know what would have happened if we had kept playing baseball.  We can’t know how we would have turned out if we played the piano.  We won’t know how our lives would have been different had we not taken that job, kissed that girl, left that party, eaten that bad fish, abandoned our hope, our religion, our family, our dreams and on and on and on.  It just can’t be known and yet we still wonder when the decisions we made have left us in a state, a condition, a mess, a funk and a fog.  What if?  Damn the question anyway.  Do other people torment themselves this way?

How about the people we think are successful and not in the mire in which we ourselves?  Occasionally you hear about people who have made it who still harbor a deep insecurity that they’re not worthy, that they’ll be found out to be a fraud or who think failure and ruin are just around the corner.  And yet this motivates them.  They’re not locked in a paralysis by analysis wondering how they could have avoided the fears they apparently harbor.  Their “what ifs” aren’t so much the mistakes or missteps they made in the past but more so the “what if it all ends?” and why shouldn’t their questions be so?  If they truly have made it, how do they keep from slipping back into poorer or less successful circumstances?  Because in their position, as well as in ours, stasis is not an option.  We must move, we will move, either forward or backward.  The only real way to not move at all is to constantly ask, “What if?’

“What if” is the bane of all progress.  Which is not to say we shouldn’t learn from our past.  To paraphrase George Santayana, those who don’t learn from their past are doomed to repeat it.  Learning from our past, applying those lessons to our present and putting our decisions behind us is the only true way to release ourselves from our mistakes.  We have to allow ourselves the grace of saying we made a decision then, based on the best or the available information and it may have (or did) lead us down a less than desirable path.  That decision only constitutes a failure if we make it again.  So, vanquish the “what if.”  Move on as wiser and more experienced.  Unless you’re Doc Brown and have a DeLorean you really don’t have a choice.

I suppose it’s human nature to beat our head against a wall.  When the way things are isn’t to our liking we look for a reason.  Oftentimes, finding none, we turn to “What if?”  Unless we’re just looking for mental gymnastics, we probably shouldn’t.

Every week I write about the questions we ask and the things we struggle with.  If you would like to read more, click this and you’ll go to my blog.  Once you’re there I hope you’ll like what you read and decide to subscribe.  Subscribing is free and means you’ll get an email weekly with links to my posts.  Nothing more or less.  You can subscribe here too if you want by clicking here.