The "What If"

Posted by Troy Pendleton on

Last night I got a call from a family member. I won’t go into details of who it was or what we talked about other than to say it was more or less about regret. This is a topic I happen to know a lot about, to say the least. To give you some quick background, I was kicked out of High School not once, but twice. Then I was a father at Seventeen, married at 19, divorced and married two more times. I have had countless jobs over the years and struggled a lot. Let’s just say I made a lot of bad choices and for a time the “What if’s” at one point was eating me alive. 

What if, I’m wrong? What if, I fail? What if, I can’t do this?  

 The person I was talking to was worried that they were making the wrong choices and was very heartbroken that they may have made or could be making life altering mistakes. I let them speak for some time and with every word I was reminded of all the choices I had to make over the years. I could tell they were having a serious “What If” moment and was worried about regretting it. This is a dangerous why to look at things and I use to do it all the time. I wanted to convey to them, that I understood but more importantly I wanted to let them in on something I figured out years ago.   

You can’t, under no circumstances, live with regret and you can’t make decisions based on “What if’s”.  

Some people hear something like that and think it’s arrogant. That somehow mistakes are justified or frivolous and choice doesn’t have real thought behind them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I say that because, I know and understand that those choices, whether right or wrong, made me the person I am and got me here to this point in my life and every choice you make is a gamble. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose. You are going to fail at some point. You’re going to make bad choices. Sure, you try not to but you will. It happens to everyone. 

Look at it this way. Say, you get married and have a couple of kids. Then you do something completely stupid which ends your marriage.  It was your fault. You screwed up their lives by the stupid choice you made. Now you have two options, either live in misery or learn from it and move on with your life. Then a few years later you marry someone else and have more kids. This time you learned your lesson and you don’t ruin this one. Twenty years go by and you look out at your family and your child from the first marriage is now planning a wedding, with her brides’ maid, who is your child from the second marriage. Do you look at them and think “I sure regret messing up things with the first one’s mother?”.  How could you? If you had not, the second would not be here now. That doesn’t justify what you did or somehow make it right, but it does allow you to let it go. The person that lives with regret, never lets it go and never moves on. They will be second guessing everything they have done for the rest of their lives and the “What if’s” will eat them alive. 

What if, I’m wrong? What if, I fail? What if, I can’t do this?  

I simply don’t do regret. did the things I did and whether right or wrong, I can’t change them and there is no point in worrying about something that I can’t change. learn from it and try my best not to make that mistake again. let it go and keep moving forward. 

By the end of this phone call, I told this person the very things I just wrote here. I hope they and you understand that I am not telling anyone to be careless with their choice. I am just telling you to forgive yourself when you fail and don’t spend the rest of your life second guessing every choice and living with regret.  

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