Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Get Off The “If” Train

If Only

The language we use to process our experiences often reveals a lot about our mindset. I have written about this in two of my early blogs- Be Mindful- Words Have Power and Be Careful-Watch Your Internal Language. The core message in both these blogs is that our internal language is like the operating system for our mind. We operate with a positive mindset when we use good, positive language. Unfortunately, the converse is also true.

A couple of days back, my wife ruminated about something and wistfully said, ” If only we had done this….. The situation would have been different.” 

While I did not react to what she said because she was being rhetorical, I made a mental note to write about it.

“If Only….” In The Context Of The Past Represents Regret 

There are many situations where we say something that starts with “If” and goes like this.

  • If only I had prepared for the exam well, I would have gotten admission.
  • If only I had taken that other role they offered me, I would have been in a better position.
  • If only I had been more careful in doing my own due diligence instead of trusting my friend, I would not have made this wrong investment.
  • If only we had done this..things would have been different.

When you think in terms of “If Only” with reference to anything that has happened in the past, you are processing that experience from the standpoint of regret- for something you should or should not have done. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do except take a lesson. When you think of your past in the frame of regret- it sucks the energy out of your present. As a result, you will feel demotivated and insipid.

“If” In The Context Of Future Represents Doubt

Similarly, language starting with “if” also plays out in a very limiting way when we think of future-based scenarios.

  • If I can get this job, I can start my career in the right way.
  • If only this project works, I can get that promotion I have been looking for.
  • I would lose weight if I could somehow keep up with this habit for 30 days.
  • If only I could get at least two clients. I will know I am moving in the right direction.

Even before you have embarked on some agenda, by using language that starts with “If,” you start creating doubts and blinkers in your mind about whether you will be able to achieve something or not. The moment you let the words “If…..” come into your conscious mind, you have let yourself down by allowing the devil of doubt create uncertainty in your mind. And, when you do anything with a sense of doubt or uncertainty, there is no passion, excitement, inspiration, motivation that you can bring to the table. Nothing of substance ever gets achieved in this state.

Move From “If” to “Once” To Reflect Possibility 

We should all banish the use of “If” from our conscious vocabulary as much as possible to develop and maintain a more positive outlook in life. One way we can control the instinct to think in terms of “if….” is to replace it with the word “Once….”.

  • Once I get this job, I can start my career in the right way.
  • Once I execute this project efficiently, I can get that promotion I have been looking for.
  • Once I keep up with this habit for 30 days, I will lose weight.

The change is subtle but powerful. When you consciously replace the word “If” with “Once,” your mindset shifts. There is no doubt in your mind. It is a matter of time before you will achieve what you are after. As a result, you operate with a sense of anticipation, positive energy, and a can-do spirit. There is no question of “if”; it is all about “When.”

In summary, keep an eye out for the phrases you use to process your experiences. If you find yourself speaking in terms of “if …then,” you operate with a very defensive, doubtful, and fearful mindset. In contrast, if you consciously speak in terms of “Once….then,” you are priming yourself to operate with a strong and positive mindset.

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