Of all the things people say to me after they’ve read my books, seen me on television, or heard me give a speech, there is one comment I hear more than all the others put together:
“If only I had started saving when I was younger.”
SOMETIMES LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVE BALL. While some of you may blame yourselves for not having started saving or investing earlier, I also know that many of you are starting late not because you were shortsighted or lazy or irresponsible, but because life threw you a curve ball. I hear from people all the time who are starting late because of divorce, death, illness, disability, bankruptcy, poor career choices, lack of education—and on and on. Either way, it’s time to cut to the chase. What’s done is done. You can’t go back and fix the past.
THE PAST IS OVER. Oh, you say, if only I knew then what I know now, my whole life would be different. Of course it would. But guess what—you didn’t know. Or if you did, you didn’t do what you knew you needed to be doing.
So it’s done. Finished. Settled.
Sometimes life is unfair.
But that’s okay.
You can move on.
You can get over it.
Stop asking yourself why you didn’t do what you should have done. The real question is: what are you going to do about it now?
NO MORE SAYING, “IF ONLY”! For a long time now, you’ve been beating yourself up about what you haven’t done or should have done. Some of you have been beating yourselves up for your mistakes for decades. It’s unreal how tough we can be on ourselves.
We all do this. I’m no exception. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “Oh, if only I hadn’t sold that house in Danville, California.” That house was the first house I ever owned. I bought it for $220,000 and sold it nearly five years later for $225,000. (Not exactly a Donald Trump real estate flip.) Today, that house is worth more than $700,000.
I could go on and on. But none of it matters. What matters is that with all the amazing mistakes I’ve made over the years, I still managed to become a multimillionaire. That’s because rather than looking back, I focus on going forward. And here’s the bottom line: if you are not yet as rich as you want to be, stop focusing on what you haven’t done and start focusing on what you want to do.
YOU CAN’T COULDA-WOULDA-SHOULDA YOURSELF TO WEALTH OR HAPPINESS. You know what I’m talking about. So stop “shoulda-ing” all over yourself. It’s messy and makes you unhappy. I know. I’ve been there.
Instead, decide today—right now—to let it go. We all make mistakes. I’ve made them. You’ve made them. Your parents and friends have made them. We are all human. Mistakes hurt. But let’s not waste one more ounce of your energy, spirit, or time thinking about them, because all that will accomplish is hold you back.
Keep this in mind: The past will continue to be your future if you drag it along with you!
THE FASTEST WAY TO LET IT GO. Here’s an exercise I recommend you do. If you really want to get over something you regret, the fastest way to do it is to acknowledge the regret—and then burn it up. Literally.
Here’s what you do. Get yourself a blank sheet of paper and write down a list of as many of your personal if only’s as you can think of.
If only I had saved more money.
If only I hadn’t quit that job.
If only I hadn’t taken the job I have.
If only I’d had kids.
If only I’d not had kids
If only I had bet on the Yankees.
If only I hadn’t bet on the Red Sox.
I’m serious about this. Really go to town with it. Free flow. Let it all hang out. Be honest with yourself. You’ve been beating yourself up over this stuff for years, so you might as well as get it down on paper.
When you’re finished making your list…set fire to it! I’m serious. Light a match and BURN IT UP. Let all those damn if only’s turn into ashes.
Have a “Goodbye If Only’s” party. Invite a friend over and do it together. Just make sure you burn your if only’s somewhere safe. We don’t want you setting fire to your house. If burning them seems too extreme, then just tear up your if only’s into little pieces and toss them in the garbage can.
YOU REALLY NEED TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. The one thing I’ve learned from coaching so many people on their lives and money is that we are just too brutal on ourselves. And what do we do when we actually make some progress? We beat ourselves up for not doing everything perfectly.
It’s a fact that no one will ever be as tough on you as you are on yourself. So give yourself a break. Really. Please leave a comment below letting me know how you feel once you’ve freed yourself of your if onlys.
AND REMEMBER- ITS ONLY TOO LATE FOR YOU IF YOU GIVE UP!