5 Reasons Thinking About Going Back And Changing Things Doesn’t Help

Eric S Burdon

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You need a better direction in your life.

The more you get older, the more tempting it is to ask a certain question:

If you could go back and change a decision you’ve made what would it be?

We’ve made thousands of mistakes in the span of a year let alone a decade. Some of them are minor things while others could’ve altered our very way of life.

To go back in time with the knowledge and experience that we have now, it’s obvious that we’d wish for an opportunity like this to emerge. Or to spend time thinking about the possibility.

As comforting of a question that it is, it’s a terrible way of thinking when you think about it. Here is why.

1. It Means You Don’t Care About The Subsequent Lessons You’ve Learned

Every experience comes with all kinds of lessons if you’re willing to dig into it. A failure is never truly a failure unless you’ve gained nothing from it.

Whatever you happen to gain might not always be something incredibly useful, but it shapes who you become moving forward — if only slightly.

Even though you wish you could go back on a decision you made in the past, it tells me that you don’t care about the lesson(s) you’ve learned from that event.

You can obviously change your decision at some point in time in the future of course. But thinking about going back to the initial root decision means that everything building up to this point right now was useless or pointless.

It means you don’t care about the people you met along the way. Or the subsequent decisions you’ve made from taking that path.

It’s a poor thought process.

2. It Doesn’t Help You With Moving Forward And Seeking Solutions

I recently shared my experience about Bitcoin and aimed to provide a glimpse at a regular person with no understanding of investing who tried to navigate the cryptocurrency world in 2015.

While I’ve gotten plenty of angry comments about it, it’s something I can’t go back to and change. I’ve hit publish and the article is out there.

I can take it down, but people are still going to know me as this crypto noob who was so naive he got scammed twice. This is aside from the fact I only got scammed once and this was around the time where crypto as a concept was only emerging as something worth discussing. Bitcoin — the first coin — was created in 2009 and it wasn’t common knowledge to the masses. It still kind of isn’t even now.

The point is, thinking about whether that was a mistake and wishing I could go back before publishing the article is a waste of time. What’s been done has been done.

Instead, it’s more important to be thinking about how I can change moving forward. In this situation, it’s more of “how can I convey my points better in the future when discussing this topic?”

If you spend all your time and energy thinking about what-if scenarios if you changed something about a mistake, you’ll never find the solutions that’ll solve the actual problem or circumstances you’re in right now.

You’ve created them, now is the time to figure out how to change it. This requires action in the present rather than thoughts of the past.

3. You Miss Out On The Good

Every path has a silver lining to it. There is some bad, but there is always going to be some good that comes out of it. Even in situations where we consider things inherently bad.

An example is I’ve known plenty of smokers who have changed their entire lives around for the better. Even if smoking kills, smoking has lead them to eventual opportunities in some way shape or form.

Even though that’s a clearly bad thing to do, wishing you never got into smoking means you’re missing out on the good things that came from it. Maybe it helped you be a better conversationalist. Or maybe it’s how you met the love of your life and the both of you worked together to try and quit smoking.

This isn’t to say to pick up a habit of smoking, but every decision we make has a silver lining to it. Spending time dwelling on wishing to go back on those decisions comes off that your ungrateful for the things that have come to pass — both the bad and the good.

4. You’re Neglecting A Part Of Your Own Identity

We are a culmination of decisions, beliefs, and habits that we’ve built up over time. Every decision we make develops into a habit and a way of thinking.

By telling yourself “I wish I could go back and change that one thing,” you’re telling yourself that that part of you is something you detest and that you want to forget about it.

Instead of dwelling on it, you could consider something as simple as working to change your identity.

For example, working out is something that I’ve developed this year. I love going to the gym and working out. Even if there are some exercises I’m not overly keen on.

But this wasn’t the first time I went to the gym. There was a time in university where I worked out and then quit. There was also a weight loss challenge I took and decided to get the money I pledged back rather than sign-up for more training.

If I went back and wished I changed my decisions back then, I might be in a much healthier position than I am now.

But I’d be forsaking the various parts of me that I became during those crucial moments.

When I was doing that weight loss challenge, I needed the money in order to save up and move out of my parent's place. If I didn’t have that money, I might’ve put too much pressure on myself to work harder with my freelance gigs and burnt myself out.

Even though there are some flawed aspects about ourselves we wish to change, we can always work to change them here and now. Who you are is constantly changing and you’re free to change whenever you like. Thinking about past mistakes and wishing to change those things is pointless.

5. It Actually Hurts You More To Dwell On This Thought Process

Depending on how deep of a decision it is, it could be very painful to you on an emotional level. Several decades ago, my dad was involved in a network marketing company that scammed him and my relatives of thousands of dollars.

I still remember my dad saying that he wished he invested in gold at the time rather than spending his money on that scam — with a tinge of regret in his voice.

These kinds of pains linger around and they can be difficult to dismiss. They remind you of a time where you had a lapse in judgement or you weren’t in the best light.

It’s something that you won’t recognize until much later down the road.

And in those moments, wishing that you could change your decision back then, it could provide more hurt than healing. Sure you could find some comfort in if you did things differently things might’ve changed.

But our decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. They create ripple effects through our lives. If you changed that one decision to something obviously favourable, you’re welcoming more pain. Pain that you couldn’t even possibly imagine at this point.

Because who you are right now is the one who made that mistake you wish you could go back and change.

Stop Dwelling And Start Doing

This isn’t a reason to stop dwelling on the past. We’re humans, we get flashbacks of past memories. Certain thoughts trigger past events that can bring us pain.

That stuff happens.

But instead of dwelling on those and wishing to go back and change those things or think about how stupid, foolish, or ignorant you were, ask yourself a question:

Why am I even dwelling on this?

If it’s a serious issue or something that you can leverage from, by all means, take advantage of that. See if there are lessons to be learned from those experiences. Maybe the flashback is relevant to your current situation and you can use it as a means to move forward.

The key is to be working with where you are now. Dwelling on things that happened previously can’t save you.

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