Have you ever fallen into the trap of "if only?"

"If only I made 100k a year, I'd be able to buy my dream house."

"If only I had more time, I'd be able to get in shape and feel better."

"If only, my husband made more money. I'd be able to quit my job and pursue my dreams."

I could write a thousand more of those but you get the point.

"If only" is a very forgiving phase. It gives you an excuse why you don't have or can't go after what you really want in life. It pushes the responsibility to someone or something else while still giving you permission to say, "that's my dream."  In short, it makes you feel like you haven't given up on your happiness while giving you a ready-made reason to procrastinate.

Last week I wrote about hustling for happiness. Pretty much, it was about how you have to work at what you want and at the things that make you happy. The problem is that "if only" has a way of making you feel like you'd be working for your happiness if only something else wasn't in the way. We get caught in the trap of waiting until things are just right to get started or until things play out before we give ourselves permission to move forward. We don't start by building on our life as it is now, we wait to start until our life is where we want it to be. 

So how do we escape the "if only" trap and start to build on our life as it is now? 

Start with gratitude.

I know, I know. Every happiness post in the world says to get grateful about your life but there is a reason for that... it's true.

"If only" originates from a place of lacking. I don't have X so I can't have A. The mindset is already negative and restricting. But if you start to look at what you do have with appreciation, you can see how your mindset shifts. Suddenly it's not "woe is me, I don't have what I want in life," it's "I have ___ and it's awesome, so why couldn't I have ___ too?" Or it shifts to, "I've already come this far, I can go farther and do better." 

For example, of the sentences I listed at the beginning of this article, the one about the dream house is completely real for me. The thing is if I stayed with an "if only" mindset, then I would be waiting for 100k to fall in my lap annually and be miserable with my home now. But I try to look at things with gratitude. I currently live in a lovely house in a nice neighborhood that's close to friends and family. I could happily stay here for another 3-5 years and I wouldn't be miserable... it's just not ideal. I'm grateful for a job that does pay me well and allows me to pay my bills without living paycheck to paycheck. I'm also grateful that I have the time, intelligence, and resources to make more money doing side projects if I so wish. 

Do you see the difference between "things are good and I will strive for better" and "things are crappy but I'll have better one day?" 

What are your "if only" statements? Check back next week for part two of how to build on your life. 

Photo by Darius Soodmand