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If-onlys Re-examined

Apr 8, 2017 | Ponderables

“If only I had turned left instead of right…” “I knew I should have left the house earlier…” The punchline being that some terrible event would have been avoided, very often relating to traffic accidents. If you had turned left, you wouldn’t have hit that slow-down for road construction and you’d have made it to the interview on time instead of a half hour late. If you had left earlier, that drunk driver would have hit somebody else.

All true. But hardly practical. Yet will say it to ourselves over and over again. Or, if you’re very young, your parents will. As though we had some way of knowing that drunk driver was going to be there. Or that unscheduled road work was taking place.

Okay, first, we all know about hindsight. But more significant than that, we have no idea how many times we did turn left or did leave on time. We only know what did happen, we have no way of knowing what didn’t. Which is most of the time. Most of the time, we turn right and get home fine. Most of the time, there is no unscheduled road work going on.

So, when you turned right instead of left, rather than obsess about things over which we have no control – the drunk driver and the impromptu road work – maybe we could think for a minute and be thankful for all the times it didn’t happen.