I no longer own a copy of the Arthur Gordon’s important book A Touch of Wonder, but I recall a powerful story he shares in the book about the way we relate to the past and the future.
He tells of a psychiatrist friend of his in New York City that helped him during a time of regret. Gordon had missed a great opportunity, the kind that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime. He was lamenting this mistake and was stuck in regret. He just could not get over his mistake.
His friend noticed that Gordon kept using a phrase common to those stuck in the past and hamstrung by regret: “If only…”
- I had not made that choice.
- I had taken advantage of that opportunity.
- I had not said that.
- I had done something different.
“If only” can hinder and limit.
Gordon’s friend encouraged him to substitute another two word phrase each time he found himself thinking “If only.” The new phrase? “Next time.”
- I will make the better choice.
- I will take advantage of that opportunity.
- I will not say that.
- I will do something different.
“If only” ties us to the past in a limiting way. “Next time” points us to a hopeful future in which we learn from past mistakes and make better choices.
The next time you find yourself tied to the past in a limiting way, try to use the phrase “next time” and start over with a confident, positive approach to your opportunities and your challenges.