It’s 2013… your manager approaches you and tells you about how they’re opening a new restaurant in British Columbia and how they need a few people from each position to fly over to train the employees there. Everything is paid for including the flight. The only thing you’d have to pay for would be leisure activities. You think about it for a bit. “It would be really cool to get to see the opposite side of Canada” you think to yourself. There’s one problem… You’re afraid of planes and end up declining the amazing offer because of it.
It’s now 2019… You’re cleaning your room and get lost in thought as you fold clothes. Your mind takes you away to a distant place. “Where am I?” You wonder to yourself… It’s beautiful British Columbia! You’re there! It’s beautiful and there are mountains. How wonderful! You reminisce about the smells and the more relaxed culture and mindset. **Ding** You’re pulled back to reality by an instagram notification! “What a great trip that was!” You think to yourself… but wait… The trip never happened. Why? Because you were scared of planes… You now get to spend the rest of your life wondering “what if?…”
Alright, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I was totally talking about myself there for dramatic effect. Before I get into the body of the article I want to make it clear that beating yourself up about past events that can’t be changed is unhealthy and I’d recommend avoiding it when possible because it does more harm than good. Conversely, using a past experience or failure as positive motivation to either better yourself or to avoid making the same mistake again is good. You just need to be very careful and always aware of the fine line between bettering yourself and tearing yourself down for no reason, but that’s a subject for another post.
Today, I’m going to talk about a new mindset/motto that I’ve recently adopted. “There should be no what if’s, only what now’s”
What that means is that I’d now prefer to put myself out there and take chances and deal with the aftermath instead of wondering what might have been if I had just tried.
Yes, I was afraid of airplanes back in 2013. They’re honestly still not my favourite things even to this day, but although I’ve stopped beating myself up about not just accepting that offer and going to BC, I will forever wonder what might have been had I just gone. Obviously there is the possibility that the plane could have crashed (it didn’t), obviously there’s the possibility that I could have run into trouble in BC. Maybe I could have been robbed, or maybe I could have even missed my flight back.
This is where the “What now” comes in. In each of the aforementioned situations I would’ve been forced to think “What do I do now?” and to then subsequently deal with the respective situation. Let’s not forget that it could have also been the safest, most fun and exciting trip that I had ever been on. That’s also a possibility that would fall into the category of “What now?”. Being faced by a “What now?” situation isn’t at all inherently negative. It can often be the complete opposite, but you’ll never know if you’re left with a “What if”.
I spent some time working at a retirement home. It really put into perspective the fact that life eventually does end and there’s nothing we can do about it. I know that sounds very dark and somber, but it truly isn’t. I actually find that we finally begin to live once we except that we are guaranteed to die eventually.
Do you want to lay on your death bed and have tons of “What if” scenarios playing through your mind before you take your last breath knowing FULL WELL that a lot of it could have been different had you just taken a little more action? OR do you want to lay on your death bed confident and satisfied that you at least gave each opportunity a try? Even though you failed a few times, you at least tried. There’s something inherently satisfying about that notion.
Think about it a bit more before reading any further. Do you want to lay there and think about all the things you WISH you’d done or do you want to think about all the great and not so great learning experiences that turned you into a more experienced, well-rounded and altogether better person because you at least tried?
I know I’m not some 105 year old guru living in a cave that spits out life changing advice 4 times a year… it will be another 80 years before that even becomes a possibility. A lot of people disregard advice when it comes from younger people because they automatically assume we don’t have enough life experience to know what we’re talking about. They’re right, but does anybody understand life completely? Has anybody really figured their life out? I haven’t met anybody that has it all figured out yet and I’m a firm believer that we’re always learning and that we can learn from anybody, regardless of age. Everybody has a story and something to bring to the table.
Learn from everyone! Anyway, I digress. If I actually make it to 105, I hope that I’m the latter! I’d like to celebrate my 105th birthday, look back on my life and be full of satisfaction and fulfillment derived from the fact that I at least tried and failed a few times as opposed to regret for not having tried at all.
Real world examples!
To really make this hit home, I thought I’d use some real hypothetical examples. Get it? “Real” hypothetical examples? There must be a least one person out there who actually laughs at my jokes.
Imagine you’re in college and there’s a cute guy/girl who sits in the row in front of you during every class. You’ve smiled at each other a few times and there have even been a few other subtle hints of reciprocal interest. You now have two choices; You can tell the person you like them and ask them out or you can continue the pointless flirting cold war that isn’t going anywhere. Yes you could get rejected, yes the person may already be taken, but those are “what now’s”. You won’t even have to deal with any of these outcomes until you make the first move.
The following day of class arrives. You sit down, open your laptop and place your Starbucks Coffee beside it. Your crush walks in shortly after and sits down in front of you as usual. You decide you need to act today. You tap Your crush on the shoulder and he/she turns around and looks at you in anticipation.
Three options appear at the bottom of the screen
1.) Tell your crush you like them and ask them out for coffee
2.) Make a lame excuse and eject yourself from the conversation
3.) Pour coffee on laptop
The timer slowly runs out… and you pour coffee on your laptop… Damnit! Maybe you shouldn’t have watched Bandersnatch before attempting something like this. Your crush gives you a strange, confused look before getting up and moving away. You now need a new laptop, but that’s a “what now”. There will be no “What if” because your crush now thinks you’re a Bandersnatch-binge-watching-lunatic and will probably never speak to you again.
I guess one could argue that the first scenario wasn’t the most realistic, but my bad jokes will definitely make you take action so that you don’t have to read this article again and suffer through it a second time.
In the second scenario, let’s imagine that you’re at work and your boss asks you if you’d like to accept a higher paying position with more responsibility and stress. She goes on to tell you that many people don’t last long in such high stress positions at the company and that you may be let go if you consistently underperform. Three options don’t pop up at the bottom of the screen this time because this is real life, dawg.
You still do, however have a decision to make. You’ve wanted this for a while, but are scared. You tell your boss that you’ll think about it after work and get back to her the following day.
You get home and crack open a cold one “Firda boys” because you also happen to be Canadian. You think over what your course of action will be the coming day. You can accept the promotion and risk crumbling under the stress and also losing your job (What now) OR you can decline it and stay in your regular position and pass up on this amazing opportunity to grow and move up in the company… and you guessed it… wonder what might have been if you had just tried. (What if)
You decide to take the job and despite a lot of initial difficulty, end up doing very well and end up getting another promotion a few years later. That wasn’t that bad now was it? It never would have happened if you hadn’t tried!
Trying and failing feels a lot better than wondering forever!
Action was taken in both of those scenarios. Obviously the first scenario didn’t yield the best results, but at least action was taken. I’m sure each and every one of you can think of at least 10 instances in which you wish you had taken action. I can think of at least 30. Yes, whatever I didn’t do was scary in the moment, but the regret hurts way more than the rejection or failure ever would have. Sometimes we need to make a choice; “Do I want to feel the temporary itch of failure or the BURN of regret?”. Scratching an itch is a lot easier than treating a serious burn.
Take action, people! You’ll regret it if you don’t! I’m not saying that you should do crazy, illegal things such as robbing banks because you don’t want to wonder “what if?” I can assure you that your subsequent “What now?” will be a lengthy legal process and jail time, so keep it legal and moral. You like that person in your class? Go for it, but respect if they say no. You got offered that promotion, but are scared of taking on more responsibility? Go for it anyway! Push yourself! Were you given a once in a life time opportunity to build schools in a third world country? Go and at least try it out.
At the end of the day, we’re ALL going to die. Each and every one of us and there nothing we can do about it. Accept that and start living today! Nobody wants to to be full of regrets on their death bed, so don’t allow yourself to end up like that.
As always, get out there and push your boundaries!
And on a side note, if you’re ever about to make a serious decision and options appear on the bottom of the screen followed by a ten second timer, please seek immediate physiological help!
This picture was taken in Rome, Italy.