How to end your “if only” list and accept yourself as you are

By Cheryl Melody Baskin

If only I didn’t have to work anymore, THEN I’d be happy. If only I could land a job, THEN I’d be happy. If only I could find the right partner, THEN I’d be happy. If only I could get some peace and quiet around here, THEN I’d be happy. If only I could become rich and famous, THEN I’d be happy.

Do you have similar thoughts? Although I know better, there are days when I hear the whispers of “if only” in my head, too. While many of these “if only” goals may sound like the key to a great life, wanting them — or even achieving them — doesn’t always bring us closer to happiness or fulfillment. We all know the proverbial story of the person with a million friends and lots of money, who still feels empty. No matter how much we achieve, the need for immediate results and longing is a human tendency.

What’s also true is that we have the power to change things. As I explain in my book, HeartDreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams – No Matter What, I look at the “if only” mantra as a syndrome of recycled negative thought patterns that I have the power to change. True happiness and inner peace are really “inside-out” jobs — not dependent on wealth, fame, or what society views as “success.” I know this theoretically, and eventually, once I tire of my personal pity party, I consciously shift my “if only” attitude into a higher emotional vibration. I get ready to do the tough but rewarding work of changing myself from deep down inside.

Below are the exercises I use to create this shift away from my “if only” chant, to accept myself as I am today, and then infuse my life with more dreaming and productive goals:

  • Stop yourself in your own tracks. In the middle of my “if only” chant, I regroup and return to basics – the present moment. Here. Now. This. I notice the sacredness of every deep breath, and I am grateful for the beauty surrounding me. I have a favorite affirmation for this moment: “I am enough.” Self-acceptance is a direct action towards self-love. Just by breathing and being, you are enough.
  • Discover the source of your “if only” through journal writing and other self-discovery approaches. Once you’re in the here-and-now, focus on the root cause of your longing. Do you want more friends because you feel isolated? Left out of the fun? Because you’ve read an article that more friends extend our life expectancy? Self-reflection and journal writing can help you get to the source of your feelings and aid you in releasing any negative toxic thoughts and reactions associated with each “if only.” Journal writing can also offer you a sense of renewed inner peace and help you discover the dreams that have been there all along without you knowing it.
  • Embrace your doubts and insecurities, while building on them with a brave, determined “AND…” We all have doubts, fears and insecurities, and it’s ok to feel them, as long as there is an AND —  “AND I am determined, confident, brave, persistent and believe in myself and my uniqueness.” Eventually, you can work on making your “can do” voice the loudest. What we tell ourselves matters. “If only I were smarter, richer and successful” can be replaced with “I have the power to define who I am.” Insensitive people in your past may have said, “Don’t try that idea. You might fail.” or “There’s no money in that. Don’t take a risk.” Replace this unhelpful advice with things that acknowledge your power: “I have the courage to do what I love.” Power words change the trajectory of our lives.
  • Trust the process, getting a little mystical. Trusting in the mystery of the unknown magic of life is something we sometimes forget to do as adults, but it can widen our perspective, and remind us that anything can happen! This often helps with letting go of our fears and opens our mind and spirit for new miracles, hope, healing, laughter, and the manifestation of new dreams. Even when we think that our lives are going nowhere, from my experience as a “heart-dreamer,” I have learned that the opposite is true. While feeling stagnant, there is always an internal humming of new growth. What if the next step towards personal success is to love and accept ourselves as we are? Trust, acceptance, love, healing and letting go are all paths towards inner peace, happiness and freedom.
  • Accept that the “if only” may continue resonating – and that’s okay. It’s a pattern of recycled thoughts for a reason. Don’t get down on yourself if you struggle to reset your “if only” chant. Instead, take a moment to simply observe how your mind is working. It’s in these times that I like to take reflective moments to acknowledge how much I have grown despite my childhood wounds and everyday challenges. You, too, have challenges and have overcome difficulties. Pause, step back and enjoy yourself as a whole beautiful, artistic, complicated mess!
  • Don’t stop there — use visualization techniques to tap into your imagination to dream even bigger. While you’re putting “if only” into perspective, let your imagination run wild. Sometimes the biggest dreams turn out to be the most attainable, because we really want them and can throw ourselves fully into the pursuit. This is when you can harness your “if only” pattern for good, and envision new dreams and a better life. Along with your power words, use your imagination to support your words into positive action. See yourself doing what you love. Trust that the universe is working with you in a timing that is filled with grace and love. Above all, keep dreaming.

Once you have written down your “if only” thoughts and created new power words, listen. What does your heart really want? What are the whispers of your inner voice telling you? What is your innermost truth? Honor your dreams, take small action steps, and embrace the fairy dust lighting your way. Dreams are a lifeline to hope. When you believe in yourself, everything is possible.

Cheryl Melody Baskin (aka Melody) channels her boundless creative and spiritual energy into a variety of endeavors, from practicing healing arts — including music and sound healing — to serving as a motivational speaker, an educator, an intuitive life coach, workshop facilitator and musician. She is the author of Heart-Dreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams-No Matter What (2019) and Shift of Heart-Paths to Healing and Love (2016). Follow her at:


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

16 Responses to How to end your “if only” list and accept yourself as you are

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  7. Deborah Burke Henderson says:

    The author’s tips and encouragement completely resonate for me. May we all be better at accepting ourselves where we are, reflect on our thoughts and actions, strive to grow and be fearless about envisioning and pursuing the gift of change.

  8. Thank you for publishing “How to End your “If Only” List! What a great “Pick Your Brain” journal. It was pure joy to write it, and if you would like to read more tips, my book, “Heart-Dreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams – No Matter What” is on Amazon and Ingram Sparks. I wrote this book to inspire you to discover, honor and actualize your innermost truth, hopes and dreams, and to offer you new ways to think about living your one life -even and especially in the midst of coronavirus.

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