I had turned left instead of right?
I had done this instead of that?
I had married him/her instead of my spouse?
I hadn’t gotten pregnant at 16?
I hadn’t gotten her pregnant at 16?
I took that job instead of this job?
I hadn’t dropped out of college?
This seems like a simple question. But it can cause profound heartache or enlightenment depending on what conclusion we come up with. And lets face it, we all come to a point in our life where we question a past decision. This is normal human nature. And often times, evaluating the past can help us make better decisions for the future.
But what happens when we become stuck in this cycle? We all know or have at least met someone like this. Someone that is stuck in the past and blames all of their problems on a certain decision they made way back when. They are stuck in what I call “regret mode” and constantly ask themselves “What If?”.
Constantly living in the past propagates a limited belief system. Instead of focusing on what we can do, we become limited by what we have or haven’t done. And instead of relying on our natural intuition, we continue to question our ability to make valuable decisions.
So how do we stop such a vicious cycle? First, we have to accept the fact that we are all human. We all make bad decisions at some points in our lives. But we can’t let those mistakes define us. Once we realize we have made a wrong decision, we have to acknowledge it for what it was, let go of any judgements that may be attached to it, and take a leap of faith that our next decision will be the right one. It may not always be as simple as it sounds, but we have to start somewhere.
When we become stuck in the past, we lose the ability to move forward in life. Personally, I believe blaming past mistakes for present misfortunes is a cop out. It disconnects us from the present and provides a convenient excuse for why things aren’t going our way. When in reality, it’s our mindset, not our mistakes, that brought us to our present condition.
So instead of living in the past and asking “What if I had done this instead of that?”, why not let go of those nasty regrets? We can’t change the past, but we can look to the future and all of it’s endless possibilities.
Each morning is a new day, a fresh slate so to speak. What if we started each day like it was a new beginning? The only real mistake is not taking advantage of the fresh start each morning brings us.
So the next time regret and doubt rear their ugly heads, have a little faith… in yourself.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives