Don’t Play The ‘What If’ Game

big brother little sisterThis weekend was my brother’s birthday, he would have been 49.  We lost him at 28 so it is difficult for me to fast-forward him 21 years and imagine what he would be like right now.  He never met my son and I always wonder what kind of relationship they would have had.


My brother was the one that introduced me to jazz, George Carlin and sarcasm.  With that last part I imagine he and my son would have gotten along just fine.  Intellectually he was the smartest person I have ever known and very math-oriented.


When I was in elementary school he taught me to memorize our phone number (which ended in 6219) by telling me 6+2+1=9.  When my nephew was a toddler he took his little squishy connector toys and showed him each of the various money symbols (“this is a yen, this is a pound, this is a euro…”).  He humanized math for me and encouraged my natural inclination with a healthy dose of fascination.


I remember coming home from college and he and I sitting in my grandmother’s apartment staying up late just talking.  He was small in stature but one of the few people that I admire greatly.  His courage, enthusiasm, commitment and convictions were par to none.  I often think about “what if” with my brother.  What if he were still here today.  Having the opportunity to go to Chicago to visit him and having those late night talks again and him whipping up some amazing meal, as he was also a fantastic cook.


This is the only time I play the “what if” game.  Because this is the only thing that I absolutely cannot control.


It is easy to play the “what if” game when job searching.  What if I would have taken that other job, what if I would have gotten this degree instead of that one, what if I would have taken that promotion….


It comes down to one thing – it doesn’t matter now.  Like Rafiki said in the Lion Kind, “It doesn’t matter, it is in the past.”  He also said, “Oh yes, the past can hurt, but you can either run from it, or learn from it.”


You can’t change it, but you can change the now and tomorrow.  That is why the “what if” game is so distracting and destructive to your job search.  Focus on what you can do now and going forward.


Perhaps you had an opportunity to learn a certain skill set or technology and you passed on it and now you realize it is biting you in the butt.  Well, you can’t go back so what are you going to do about it now?


The first option is find the training and get it yourself.  That can cost a lot of money and that may not be an option; but that is not your only option.  You can do some research and find out if there is information on line or nearby that will give you a start on it.  Is there an organization you can volunteer for that would give you an opportunity to learn that skill?  Do you know someone who is proficient at it that you could ask to teach you?


There are lots of options – but you have to get off your butt and do something about it.  How bad do you want it?  That will determine what you do about it.


Another thing to consider when playing the “what if” game think about this: if you had chosen any other path you wouldn’t be the person that you are today, with the people in your life, with the knowledge and experiences that you have at this very point.


I don’t know that I would really change anything about my past, for the first 23 years any slight change could have changed the fact of me having my son.  There is nothing in this world I cherish more than my child.


After that, well, there were questionable decisions, bad decisions and just plain old “oh my goodness what the heck were you thinking” decisions.  But with each one I learned something.  Maybe not at that point in time, but eventually.  And that knowledge is invaluable to me now.


A couple months ago a friend and I were having a discussion about love.  He doesn’t believe in it and he pointed out a particularly horrible time in my life and asked how I could.  I told him that even thought it ended very badly the point before gave me as much happiness as the end gave me grief.  To me it was worth it.  I learned from the good and the bad.


Learn from your good and bad and embrace what your experiences have left you with – strength, courage and wisdom.  Use those to move forward.  Stop looking back at what you might not have or could be lacking and look forward with renewed strength that you have the ability to go do what you want now and this time really appreciate it.


That was another thing my brother taught me: know your convictions and if they are truly your convictions you will have no problem in standing up for them.  And when you do stand up for them do so with strength, courage and wisdom because they are not wrong if they are your own.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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