Insights: What If?

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Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you had made a different decision—one of those decisions where you struggled to know what the right answer is?  We all have had those thoughts, those moments: a relationship we ended or did not end, a job we did or did not take, or a trip we took and met our new best friend.

Many years ago when I lived in New Zealand, I took a vacation to Tahiti and helped two men who had been in a car accident get back to the United states. One of those men ended up becoming my husband four years later. If I had not helped them, would I still have met them and ending up marrying one of them?

I recently attended a fantastic Broadway show at the Segerstrom center called “If/Then” and it reminded me of how each decision we make builds on itself.

This play is about a young woman and the two different choices she could make in her life and what the outcome would have been through each choice.

In “If/Then” it shows how our choices affect those around us, which in turn affects others. And yet I find so many people do not think about their choices. They are living as if they are numb or their choices have no impact.

I also find that we tend to be so focused on the future, yet the future is made up of the choices we make in the present moments.

Eleanor Roosevelt understood this when she said, “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

Do not over-think your choices, this is not going to make anything better. Instead, slow down and allow yourself to trust your intuition.

At this stage of my life I can look back and see how there have been many “what if” stories. When I was looking at moving to Newport Beach, the first house I wanted, I did not get. I was so disappointed. I thought I would never find anything like it. Now, I live in a place that is much better than the first house. I look at all the opportunities and experiences I have had because I moved to this house. Yet what would have happened if I had moved into the first house?

I have learned over the years that life continues to evolve and the more we are able to let the external be the way it is, and the more we are able to connect internally with who we are and what is authentic for use, the more life will feel joyful, and the more we will feel we are living genuinely.

If we start to focus on the external, what others think, what we think we “should” do, we get off track and may end up with a false sense of self where we lose who we truly are.  We become disconnected from ourselves—the self that needs constant feeding of the ego. We make the best decisions when we come from the inside out in the present moments.


During intermission at the performance of “If/Then,” there were [post it notes on a large window at Segerstrom Center where patrons could jot down their own “If/Then” story.  Here is one that I enjoyed: “If I wouldn’t have taken the worst job in my life I would not have met my wife.”

Even when it seems like we are at a dead end, there is always a “then” experience.

So what is the point to all of this?

  • Nothing is ever a dead end (even a dead end job can lead us to a great thing in our life). There is always the possibility of something great coming out of it.
  • Watch your over-thinking. It never works, it is an illusion that thinking through everything will help us make a good decision.
  • Make the next right decision rather than looking too far into the future.
  • Use your intuition along with your logic to assist you in making the next right decision.
  • Decisions build on themselves to make the future.

There will be many ‘if then’ moments, so embrace them for what they bring to your life.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at [email protected] or

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