Change has a way of making you think about the past. Change is hard. The past, and the potential regret that lives there, tempt with distraction from the churn of the moment. I’m not overly prone to regret, but I’ve found myself with the opportunity to test that recently.
Looking back at my decisions and their results, it can be difficult to avoid asking myself, “what if?”
The thing is, that question is unanswerable and completely unproductive. A better approach in my mind is to ask:
“What did I learn?”
I can know that particular actions have particular reactions, and I can decide if those results are something I want to see in the future. With the benefit of hindsight, I can look back on moments when I was dishonest with myself and hold myself accountable for that. I’m finding it particularly useful to think critically about my emotional response to challenging circumstances.
How did I react? Why did I react this way? What would have been a more constructive or healthier reaction?
I’ve already seen the benefits of this thought exercise. When confronted with a situation that shares characteristics with something I’ve seen in the past and taken the time to analyze, I have been able to handle it differently.
I don’t try to force myself to avoid thinking about the past, but I’m working hard to ensure the time I spend thinking about it will benefit me now or in the future. I want to remember pleasant memories and smile today. I want to learn from the hard times and do better tomorrow. My choice is to be thankful for the good times and the useful lessons, and to look forward with greater wisdom and optimism.