Are Your Finances Being Stopped By the “If Only” Effect?

One of the money pitfalls that many of us trip over is the “if only” effect. We spend so much time thinking in terms of “if only” that we don’t get to work and fix the problems plaguing us right now.

I’ve had this problem before, and I’ll likely fall into the trap again in the future. The key is to recognize when “if only” is dominating your thinking and then do what you can to move on.

What is the “If Only” Mindset?

There have been times in my life when I’ve looked at my finances while dwelling on “if only.” With this mindset, you take a look at where you are, and then assume that “if only” things had gone differently, you wouldn’t be in this mess. I’d think, “if only that client hadn’t stiffed me” or “if only everyone would pay on time” I wouldn’t be experiencing these problems.

Other “if only” scenarios include things like “if only I’d gotten that raise I deserve” or “if only I had a rich grandparent who could leave me an inheritance” or “if only I hadn’t been tricked into getting that high-cost loan.” Sometimes we even put blame on others: “if only he hadn’t bought that item, I’d have enough to go on that trip.”

There’s a lot of that going around, and some of it even has to do with the way that we so often make plans based on what we think the outcome should be, rather than planning based around what the reality is right now. The “if only” mindset is a dangerous one because it threatens to place blame elsewhere and it can lead to trapping us in the past — or even in an alternate version of the present that we find preferable to what is happening right now.

Getting Past the “If Only” Mindset

While it’s human nature to look back on mistakes and difficulties and speculate on what would have happened “if only” something else had taken place, it’s important not to get caught up in it, and not to let it dominate your finances going forward.

First of all, acknowledge your thoughts on the matter. This can be very important when your “if only” moment includes a mistake. You want to pinpoint the problem or the mistake so that you can fix it, not dwell on it. So examine your thoughts, and think about how things could have been different. This step is about learning from the situation.

Next, it’s time to dismiss the “if only” and move forward. Take what you’ve learned and make changes. Rather than dwelling on the situation and wishing things were different, take a look at what you can do to improve matters. Even if you are in a tough spot through no fault of your own, the way you respond can make a big difference.

Put together an action plan so that you aren’t likely to find yourself in this position again. Set goals and come up with a way to meet them. Once you stop worrying about the “if only” things in your life, it will be much easier to create a new life moving forward.

About the Author

Miranda writes about financial topics for several web sites. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds, and her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, is available on Amazon.