Maranda, my daughter, called this morning deeply distraught.  She had spent hours and many late nights working on a nursing project for one of her classes due this morning.  She turned on her computer when she woke up, and the project was gone.  I gave my limited solutions but spent most of the time listening and consoling her.  

Have you ever had this happen to you?  You spent hours and late nights working on a computer project, only to have the computer freeze or the project disappear.  I have, and it is such a sick feeling.  What to do next?  Give up?  Start over?  Find someone or something to blame?  Of course, it is natural to look around to find something or someone to blame, including oneself.  “If only,” we tell ourselves, “I had a PC rather than a MAC.  If only I had ensured the autosave was on.  If only I had consistently saved.”  The phrase “If only” becomes the refrain of our anguish and frustration.   

One of my favorite authors, Arthur Gordon, tells about the time he was going through a rough time in his book A Touch of Wonder.  He turned to a close eminent psychiatrist friend for comfort and help.  His friend had him listen to a tape recording of people who had come to him for help and discover the two-word phase they all used.  After playing the tape, the friend picked it up and showed Arthur its label written in red ink: “If only”  These, he said, “are the two saddest words in any language.” The friend said,  “The trouble with ‘if only’ is that it doesn’t change anything.  It keeps the person facing the wrong way - backward instead of forward.  It wastes time.  In the end, if you let it become a habit, it can become a real roadblock - an excuse for not trying anymore.” 

“So what is the remedy,” asked Arthur.  His friend replied, “Shift the focus.”   He suggested changing the “If only” phrase with a new one, “Next time.”