It can cause our heads to spin.
It represents an almost, a nearly-but-not-quite. Sometimes it can symbolise regret. Sometimes it can stand for relief. It also symbolises the unquantifiable, the unknown, the beyond-fathomable enormity of what lies outside the trivialities of the day-to-day world and our view of it.
Who would have thought such a small word to be so important?
For example, 18 years ago today, our planet was skirted by an asteroid the size of a mountain which, had it struck, would have left a crater the size of Washington DC and caused unimaginable environmental and climatic devastation that no Hollywood fantasist could conjure up. In 1989, this "near miss" was a significant "if".
Near misses remind us of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things. "If" is the force of consequence and, ultimately, the power of the universe that surrounds and supersedes us.
Possibly not so earth-shattering as the 1989 Near Miss Day, but we all have our own "if"s. Some hold us back, some give us nightmares and some we use as stories over dinner to entertain our friends.
If we use it correctly, "if" is always worthy for a pause of thought; to keep behind all our actions the fact that there are bigger things in our life. It should never be used to build a cage of fear, regret or self-recrimination in which we lock ourselves.
As with all words, we load them with meaning. And "if" should always be one filled with possibility, not blame or censure.
Two Important Life Rules
An important connection to the "if" word, there are two keystone rules that need to centre in our lives, and really underpin all the rules we make for ourselves as we continue to grow daily.
- Be compassionate.
- Have gratitude.
In our decisions and life experiences we should always use the word "if" to help us conjure up these necessary emotions. Imagine a good friend is in need. Ask yourself: "What if that was you?" Or someone you know has recently lost a dearly loved family member. Ask yourself: "What if that happened to you?"
The 14th Dalai Lama is once quoted to have said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion", while it was the Roman statesman Cicero that deduced "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others".
I say we should always center the small word "if" in our lives. It will help us feel grateful for our challenges, and give us that little push to help others a little bit more.