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Something I have come to realize with age is that in almost every situation, there is a downside.

There is a downside to being in a relationship, there is a downside to being alone. There is a downside to being married, there is a downside to being single. There is a downside to getting divorced, there is a downside to staying married. There is a downside of going to college, there is a downside of not going to college. There is a downside to having kids, there is a downside to not having kids. There is a downside of working, there is a downside of not working. There is a downside to being rich, there is a downside to being poor, and there is even a downside of being somewhere in the middle of rich and poor.

Darn, there’s always a downside? Well that stinks, right? Yes and no. It only stinks if you are under the illusion that there can be no downside. In our society that seems to be the expectation. Or the belief that a downside is “a sign” that it’s time to make a change, usually the opposite of whatever the situation causing the downside may be.

However, these changes are often made in reaction to the downside, without consideration to the downsides of doing something else, instead. Far too often people see change as the solution to a downside, but they do not consider nearly enough what the downside to whatever their new path may be. Once on it, the downsides become apparent and the dissatisfaction and desire to eliminate the downside sets in once again.

I call it the “if only’s.” If only I was married/single/divorced/had kids/didn’t have kids/had a degree/didn’t have a degree/worked/didn’t work/was rich and so on. If only, if only, if only…then I could be happy!

That’s where the option of acceptance and gratitude comes in, something people don’t seem to consider nearly as often as they consider radical change. Accepting that there is always going to be a downside can be actually very freeing. And it can help one make better choices, find contentment, and even be happier.

And of course sometimes the downsides of not making a change are greater than the downsides of doing different. Once all sides are considered, maybe change really is what is needed. In those cases, considering in advance the downside of all options can help make those choices easier. It’s not change that’s bad, it’s the overly idealistic idea that change will lead to a life without downsides. Well, it won’t. That doesn’t mean life can’t be better. But there will always still be downsides. Sorry.

Of course, the good news here is that also means there are likewise always upsides of every situation. And if the downside and upsides are also considered in tandem before making major changes, sometimes just considering the upsides can help one realize things are actually more good than bad. I think that in the majority of cases in life, this is true. And studies show that simply focusing on the upsides in life, rather than the downsides, leads to much greater life satisfaction no matter what the situation might be.

So when you find yourself focusing on the downside, telling yourself, “if only” things were different, then you would be happy/fulfilled/content/whole/etc. try looking at the upside as well as the possible downsides of that “if only.” Chances are good you are likely to discover all things considered, it’s not so bad after all. And if so, focusing more on the upside and less on the “if only” might be the best solution of all.

For where your focus is, there your heart will be also.

Let those who have ears hear.